World

Germany is on course to shut down its three remaining nuclear power plants on Saturday.

The country began phasing out nuclear power more than 20 years ago – but plans were escalated following Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011.

Subsequent anti-nuclear demonstrations in Germany led then chancellor Angela Merkel to press ahead with plans to shut down all of Germany’s remaining nuclear power by 2022.

Sixteen reactors have been closed since 2003.

However, Germany was forced to delay the closure of three remaining plants after Russia cut off European gas supplies amid its war in Ukraine, sparking fears of a winter fuel crisis.

An amended deadline of 15 April 2023 will see the facilities in Emsland, in the northern state of Lower Saxony, and the Isar 2 and Neckarwestheim reactors close this week.

It comes as many other countries – including the UK – are turning to nuclear power to provide greener energy, as it generates electricity without the climate-heating emissions of burning fossil fuels.

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It can also boost energy security if it is generated at home, and could help countries replace power from Russian gas. However, it requires significant time and money to build.

In November the UK government announced funding of £700m towards the planned Sizewell C nuclear power plant in Suffolk.

Ministers said the plant would create 10,000 highly skilled jobs and provide reliable low-carbon power to the equivalent of six million homes for more than 50 years.

Read more:
Why taxpayers will share pain of cost of building Sizewell C
China bought out of Sizewell C as UK confirms £700m stake in nuclear project
Hinkley Point C nuclear power station delayed again and at further £3bn cost

And in the spring budget Chancellor Jeremy Hunt revealed plans for Great British Nuclear, although it had previously been announced more than once.

He said the new flagship body would offer “opportunities across the nuclear supply chain to help provide up to one quarter of our electricity by 2050”.

Germany still faces a headache over how it will replace its nuclear power plants.

Coal still accounts for a third of German electricity production, but it has announced plans to shut down all coal-fired power plants in the country by 2038, with a first wave of closures in 2030.

It is investing heavily in solar and wind technologies, but many fear the current rate of progress on renewables will not be enough for Germany to meet its own green energy targets.

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