Germany Moves To Shutter Nuclear Power Stations The German government has decided to close all the country's nuclear power stations by 2022. The decision marks a U-turn for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who only last year had forced through legislation that would have extended the working life of the power plants. Anti-nuclear feeling has grown in Germany following the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan. And in March, Merkel's Christian Democrats party lost a crucial regional election that was fought largely on environmental issues. NPR's Eric Westervelt talks to Robert Siegel from Berlin.
NPR logo

Germany Moves To Shutter Nuclear Power Stations

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/136829606/136830294" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Germany Moves To Shutter Nuclear Power Stations

Germany Moves To Shutter Nuclear Power Stations

Germany Moves To Shutter Nuclear Power Stations

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/136829606/136830294" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

The German government has decided to close all the country's nuclear power stations by 2022. The decision marks a U-turn for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who only last year had forced through legislation that would have extended the working life of the power plants. Anti-nuclear feeling has grown in Germany following the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan. And in March, Merkel's Christian Democrats party lost a crucial regional election that was fought largely on environmental issues. NPR's Eric Westervelt talks to Robert Siegel from Berlin.

ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:

And, Eric, less than a year ago, Chancellor Merkel pushed through a plan to extend the life of the country's nuclear power plants, not a very popular plan, but why reverse it now?

ERIC WESTERVELT: So, you know, there are other important elections coming up this year, state elections, so politics was really a huge factor, as well.

SIEGEL: Now, we should just say 17 nuclear reactors in Germany account for a great deal of that country's energy supply, don't they?

WESTERVELT: Well, exactly, and it's a key question of how, right now, you can switch off. It accounts for nearly a quarter of their energy supply.

SIEGEL: So where are they turning to? Will it all be wind and solar, or are they just going to import electricity from other countries that might indeed be generated by nuclear plants?

WESTERVELT: But details of, you know, really how you get there, that will be a political and policy debate in the months ahead.

SIEGEL: I've seen it speculated that it's possible Germany could end up buying electricity from countries perhaps with far lower safety standards than Germany now has and that have nuclear power plants.

WESTERVELT: That's very possible. I mean, nuclear production in Europe could really stay the same or even rise, and green groups are warning against that here in Germany and against relying on gas and coal in the short term, Robert, to fill the power generation gap, both of which are bigger polluters than nuclear power.

SIEGEL: And are the Germans effectively saying that they, this huge manufacturing superpower, are prepared to have a higher fuel bill as they turn more to renewable sources of energy, that it'll just be more expensive to do things in Germany?

WESTERVELT: And green groups have called, in fact, for a faster phase-out of nuclear power, and they said they're worried, you know, in the short term Germany might end up burning more coal, more gas and importing more electricity from nuclear power producers, France, the Czech Republic and other neighbors.

SIEGEL: Given their neighbors' interest in continuing to produce, this doesn't sound like a European trend, or might it conceivably be, politically?

WESTERVELT: I mean, the French and the U.K. rely on nuclear power. They're staying with it. The Netherlands wants to build two new plants as part of its energy program. So the rest of Europe is really sticking with nuclear energy, and Germany will be something of a pioneer here.

SIEGEL: Thank you, Eric.

WESTERVELT: You're welcome.

SIEGEL: That's NPR's Eric Westervelt, speaking with us from Berlin.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.