As a society, Germany has decided that it wants the overwhelming share of its future energy supply to be generated from renewables. At present, there are three nuclear power plants still operating in Germany, generating approximately 4,300 MW. These will be successively shut down, with the last ones closing by the end of 2022.
Financing of the nuclear phase-out
On 16 December 2016, the Bundesrat adopted the Act Reorganising Responsibility for Nuclear Waste Management after the Bundestag had endorsed the Act. The Act entered into force on 16 June 2017 following its approval under state aid rules by the European Commission. It stipulates the responsibility for nuclear waste management and ensures the long-term financing of shut-down, dismantling and disposal. Further information can be found here.
Background of the nuclear phase-out
In autumn 2010, the Federal Government adopted an Energy Concept that sets the course for Germany’s transition to the age of renewables. In this Energy Concept, nuclear energy was assigned the role of 'bridging technology' to be used up to the point where renewables have become reliable and economically viable enough to replace them, and the necessary infrastructure has been put in place.
Following the disaster at the Japanese nuclear power plant of Fukushima in March 2011, the German government decided to accelerate the energy transition and to completely phase out power generation in German nuclear power plants by the end of 2022.
The accident made it necessary for the residual risk posed by nuclear power to be reassessed by society. Germany’s Reactor Safety Commission started a comprehensive analysis of the risks associated with the nuclear power plants operating in Germany. In addition to this, the German government appointed an independent Ethics Commission, which gave its opinion on all the issues related to Germany's future energy supply. The findings presented by these Commissions were the basis of the political decisions that were taken after this.
Nuclear power plants in Germany
A total of 37 nuclear power plants (NPPs) have been built in Germany and put into commercial operation since 1962. Some of them only operated for a short time.
24 NPPs were commissioned between 1962 and the end of 1980. In the same period, the licences for 5 nuclear power plants expired.
Between 1981 and the end of 2000, another 13 NPPs were commissioned for commercial operation, whilst 13 nuclear power plants lost their licences. Of these 13 nuclear power plants, 6 had been operating in former GDR territory and were shut down in 1990 (1 reactor in Rheinsberg, 5 in Greifswald - built between 1966 and 1989). At the end of 2000, there were still 19 nuclear power plants commercially operating in Germany.
The chart on the right-hand side gives an overview of the nuclear power plants that lost their licence for commercial power operations between 2001 and 2021 and of those whose licences will expire in 2022 at the latest.
The Grafenrheinfeld nuclear power plant ceased its operations in 2015; the Gundremmingen B nuclear power plant followed at the end of 2017. Next to lose its licence was the Philippsburg 2 nuclear power plant at the end of 2019, followed by the Grohnde, Gundremmingen C and Brokdorf nuclear power plants at the end of 2021. The three newest plants, Isar 2, Emsland and Neckarwestheim 2, will be shut down no later than the end of 2022.
Other applications for nuclear technology
Other than in commercial nuclear power plants, nuclear technology in Germany is also used in a wide range of medical procedures, in industry and in research. Germany will need to continue to use nuclear technology for these high-tech applications beyond 2022. The necessary precautions associated with nuclear safety and radiation protection will continue to be upheld.
There are a large number of enterprises working in various fields of the nuclear technology industry in Germany. These include suppliers of uranium, companies specialising in enriching uranium and producing fuel elements, firms that plan and construct nuclear installations, and companies specialising in the transport, handling and storage of nuclear waste and in shut-down and remediation. On top of these firms, there are also upstream suppliers and service providers. Many companies in this industry also export their goods and services to countries outside Germany.