Germany Is Closing Half of Its Reactors at Worst Possible Time

Germany is set to close almost half of its nuclear power capacity before the end of the year, putting further strain on European grids already coping with one of the worst energy crunches in the region’s history. From a report: The shutdowns of Grohnde, Gundremmingen C and Brokdorf — part of the country’s nuclear phaseout — will leave just three atomic plants, which will be taken offline by the end of 2022. Beyond the squeeze on supply, the closures remove a key source of low-carbon power in a nation where emissions are on the rise. After the 2011 Fukushima disaster, Germany vowed to ditch all of its reactors. At the time, the country was a leader in renewables, but the phaseout has left it more reliant on coal and lignite for electricity generation. The nation fell behind in the net-zero race after making major concessions to the coal lobby, to protesters against wind farms and to manufacturers, particularly carmakers.

“From a pure emissions perspective, it was always a questionable idea to shut down German nuclear before the plants have reached the end of their lifetime,” said Hanns Koenig, head of commissioned projects at Aurora Energy Research. “It was always clear that the nuclear phaseout would need coal and gas plants to run more and therefore cause substantial extra emissions.” Atomic plants are designed to generate power around the clock, providing valuable backup when the wind doesn’t blow or the sun doesn’t shine. While the shutdowns have been known about for years and are unlikely to cause a spike in prices, the removal of 4 gigawatts of baseload output highlights a dwindling reserve of buffer capacity in Germany. It’s one reason why prices are higher next year: electricity for delivery in 2022 has jumped more than fivefold this year.

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