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Germany to postpone nuclear power phaseout

Germany's remaining nuclear plants to stay online through winter

German Minister for Economic Affairs and Climate Protection Robert Habeck says there will be delays in the pivot away from nuclear power in the country. Photo by Filip Singer/EPA-EFE
German Minister for Economic Affairs and Climate Protection Robert Habeck says there will be delays in the pivot away from nuclear power in the country. Photo by Filip Singer/EPA-EFE

Sept. 28 (UPI) -- Germany's energy minister said the lack of electricity coming from France means the government in Berlin needs to hold off on abandoning nuclear power.

French President Emmanuel Macron vowed to help address some of the looming energy issues gripping the broader European market. Natural gas is at a premium due in no small part to the lack of supplies coming from Russia. Meanwhile, the nuclear power segment in France is aging and the power capacity is close to a 30-year low.

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"The situation in France is not good and has developed much worse than was actually forecasted in the last few weeks," Robert Habeck, Germany's economy and energy minister, said, according to Sky News.

For Germany, that means two of the three remaining nuclear power plants in operation will stay online at least until early 2023 to avoid major problems on the grid. According to a separate report in The Guardian newspaper, the decision is something of an about-face for Habeck, who earlier this month said the nuclear plants would remain in standby mode unless they're absolutely necessary to avoid energy shortages.

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Germany under the former government of Angela Merkel vowed to dismantle the nuclear energy sector after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan. Habek, for his part, has been opposed to bringing the two plants -- Isar 2 and Neckarwestheim 2, both in southern Germany -- back online.

An energy crisis brought on by the Russian invasion of Ukraine in late February has changed the calculus for many European leaders, however.

German energy company E.ON said in a separate statement that it could keep at least one of those plants running through March 2023 with its existing core provided there's a short shutdown for overhauls.

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CEO Leonhard Birnbaum said it was E.ON's responsibility to ensure Germany has adequate supplies of energy.

"That is why we have always been willing to discuss the potential continued operation of the Isar 2 nuclear power plant, if the German government requested it," he said. "We continue to stand by this responsibility."

The broader European energy market may be facing a rough couple of months given the extraordinary spike in the price for natural gas, prompting governments across the bloc to scramble for alternatives ahead of the winter heating season.

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