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E.ON Energy Giant Won't Extend German Nuclear Plants' Lifetime Amid Threats to Ditch Russian Gas

© AFP 2023 / DANIEL ROLANDBlock A (R) and B, the pressurised water reactors of the nuclear power plant Biblis in the southwestern German town of Biblis (File)
Block A (R) and B, the pressurised water reactors of the nuclear power plant Biblis in the southwestern German town of Biblis (File) - Sputnik International, 1920, 11.04.2022
Even now nuclear energy, as well as Russian gas, plays a significant part in overall energy generation in Germany – one of the EU's vital industrial centres. Fearing imminent shortages should Russian gas suddenly stop flowing, Berlin came up with a plan that suggests rationing fuel and partly shutting down production.
German-owned European energy giant, E.ON, has ruled out extending the lifetime of the three nuclear power plants it is operating in Germany citing political climate in the country. Despite facing pressure to ditch buying Russian gas because of its special military operation in Ukraine, and thus facing potential power shortages, Berlin ruled in March 2022 that it won't be prolonging its phasing out of nuclear energy which is scheduled to finish in 2023.
"There is no future for nuclear in Germany, period. It is too emotional. There will be no change in legislation and opinion", E.ON Chief Executive Officer Leo Birnbaum said.
Birnbaum hinted that the German government decided that keeping nuclear energy would not "be a game changer" in relieving "the gas emergency situation", possibly referring to a potential end to Russian gas supplies in Germany. The E.ON chief executive called the move to conclude wrapping up nuclear energy production a "decent trade-off decision" on Berlin's part.
At the same time, Birnbaum called on the German government to abstain from boycotting Russian gas as it would have drastic negative implications for the country's industry – a call echoed by other companies in Germany. The E.ON boss said that a shutdown of such giants as chemical company BASF, would have a dangerous effect on the country's economy far exceeding that of the COVID-19 lockdowns.

German Nuclear Phase Out Amid Gas Concerns

The German government made a decision to stop using nuclear power plants after the disaster at Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plant, which was damaged by an extremely powerful tsunami in 2011 leading to catastrophic nuclear waste. By 2022, only three nuclear power plants, all of which are operated by the E.ON, remain functioning in Germany and all three are scheduled to be switched of by 2023.
The talks about a potential boycott of Russian gas in response to Russia's special operation in Ukraine briefly prompted talks of extending the phase out. Minister for Economic Affairs and Climate Action Robert Habeck stated that he won't be opposing extending the operational time of nuclear power plants for the time being. However, on 8 March, Berlin said it won't extend the phase-out, opting for faster build-up of alternative energy sources instead.
This is, however, not the only plan Berlin has. Although it still resists boycotting Russian fuel in the here and now, pushing for a gradual refusal of it, the German government has planned in case of gas supply shortages. Among other things, there is strict rationing of existing gas supplies with potential cut-offs for big enterprises and forced halting of their operation to accommodate to all needs. Agriculture Minister for Baden-Württemberg, Peter Hauk, even called for reducing apartment heating standards to 15 degrees Celsius and to freeze a little "for freedom" from Russian gas.
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