From the Energiewende and Back

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German officials this winter may keep open three nuclear power plants that they previously had planned to shut down as part of the Energiewende, or “energy turnaround” in German, that aims to transition Europe’s largest economy to renewable sources of energy.

Former Chancellor Angela Merkel, a conservative Christian Democrat, launched the Energiewende after the Fukushima nuclear accident in 2011. In June, current Chancellor Olaf Scholz, a Social Democrat, said he would press on with the policy despite energy prices rising worldwide. The disaster that could occur if fighting damaged the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southeastern Ukraine and triggered a meltdown has reminded the world about the dangers associated with splitting the atom.

The country has a robust anti-nuclear movement while the Green Party, which is in a coalition government with Scholz, keeps denuclearization at the center of its policy platform, wrote the Associated Press. As Green Party member and Economy Minister Robert Habeck said, the country needs gas for heat and industrial purposes. They do not have a shortage of electricity capacity.

But lately, as the New York Times explained, Russia has been reducing natural gas supplies to Europe in order to punish German and other Western leaders who have condemned Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine in late February. That inconvenient fact has thrown a wrench into the Germans’ denuclearization plans. Scholz has said he is studying the issue, but he’s reportedly already decided unofficially to keep the plants open, added Reuters.

Plant operators, in the meantime, are continuing the long process of shutting down their facilities even as they plan on keeping them open this winter, the Financial Times wrote.

Many observers deemed the Energiewende a failure. Some said its advocates had compromised their principles. The libertarian Australian news journal Quillette called the policy a catastrophe, arguing that Germany over the years had put itself in a vulnerable position where a Russian autocrat could plunge the country into a recession by withholding energy.

Germany has been burning plenty of coal, too, to replace the lost capacity as officials have decommissioned nuclear power plants, reported Vox. They’ve even reopened coal-fired power generating plants that had been closed as part of the country’s pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change, the Washington Post noted.

Defenders of the policy say it is only temporary, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation added. But German leaders have also called on other wealthy industrialized countries to walk back on a pledge to end investments in overseas carbon-based energy projects, Bloomberg reported.

France, meanwhile, which operates a significant nuclear energy industry, has maintained its progress in reducing carbon emissions and insulating itself against the worst of Putin’s energy blackmailing, the National Interest argued.

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