BERLIN — Germany’s top conservative politicians will visit one of the country’s last remaining nuclear power plants on Thursday as part of a push to urge the government to abandon its planned exit from nuclear power amid growing concerns of an impending wartime energy crisis of Russia in Ukraine.
Germany is set to be hit hardest by Europe’s efforts to divest itself of Russian fossil fuels to punish Moscow for the invasion. That has led some parties — notably the center-right Christian Democrats, who are in opposition, and the pro-business Free Democrats, one of the governing coalition parties — to push for Germany to keep its last three nuclear power plants online.
Chancellor Angela Merkel moved in 2011 to phase out the country’s nuclear power after an earthquake and tsunami in Japan led to overheating and explosions at the Fukushima nuclear plant. Thursday’s visit by Martin Söder, leader of the southern state of Bavaria, and Friedrich Merz, head of the Christian Democrats, to Bavaria’s Isar 2 plant comes after Ms Merkel’s successor, Chancellor Olaf Scholz, suggested he may be willing to reverse her decision.
Mr Scholz said on Wednesday that operating Germany’s last three nuclear plants after their decommissioning date of December 31, 2022, “may make sense” given the current situation. Any such move, he insisted, would not be decided by his government, but rather by a series of stress tests on the German power system to see whether the units would be needed and could be safely operated after their shutdown date. .
Germans are among the most wary of nuclear power in Europe. In a sign of how controversial the issue of nuclear power is in the country, leaders from his own party and coalition partners almost immediately hit back at his remarks.
“We will not review the phasing out of nuclear power,” Social Democratic Party leader Saskia Esken said on Wednesday. Annalena Baerbock, the Greens’ foreign minister, said extending the life of power stations was “not an option”.
Mr Scholz stressed on Wednesday that keeping the three nuclear plants open was mainly to meet regional needs in Bavaria. Bavaria, home to companies that drive German industry, could face severe energy shortages, which could be alleviated by keeping the Isar 2 plant running.
Mr Söder said before his visit to Isar 2 that Mr Scholz’s government was, however, moving too slowly. He argued that the government, which has been in power since December, “had hesitated for too long”.
“Why half hearted again?” Mr Söder told German news agency DPA “We need decisions now”.