This is a relatively small proportion of Germany’s electricity needs, but it divides the government’s traffic light: What’s next for the last three nuclear power plants? After their party congress, the Greens no longer want to move towards the FDP. At night, Scholz, Habeck and Lindner struggle to find a solution.
Hours before the crisis meeting between Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Federal Economy Minister Robert Habeck and Christian Lindner, no compromise solution is in sight in the traffic light coalition’s dispute over the continued use of nuclear power plants. “Actually we had a solution. We agreed on it among ourselves in the coalition,” Green Party leader Omid Nouripour told ntv at the party conference in Bonn. The federal government’s so-called “double boom” decision states that, in an emergency, the two nuclear power plants in southern Germany could continue to operate for a limited time. This means that the Emsland nuclear power plant will be closed by the end of the year. “That’s not just the decision of the Greens. That’s the decision that we agreed amongst ourselves in the coalition.”
The coalition partner FDP would like to use the three nuclear power plants that are still in operation by spring 2024 and also order new fuel rods for them. Since being expelled from the Lower Saxony parliament last Sunday, the Liberals have been fighting with new vehemence for their pro-nuclear line. In the meantime, the Greens drew red lines at their party congress, behind which Federal Economics Ministers Habeck and Federal Environment Minister Steffi Lemke, as well as the Greens’ parliamentary group, can hardly step back: a decision of the party congress excludes both the use of the Emsland nuclear power plant beyond the turn of the year and the acquisition of new fuel rods.
The Neckarwestheim2 and Isar 2 nuclear power plants planned by Habeck for transfer to the emergency deployment reserve will be decommissioned from April 15, 2023. From Habeck’s point of view, the debate is blown out of proportion because the two southern nuclear power plants of Germany would only produce 0.5 gigawatts of electricity, while in the supposed emergency Germany would lack 4 to 8 gigawatts of electricity. Lindner nonetheless criticized the Greens’ decision on Saturday via Twitter. “When it comes to preventing damage to our country, preventing high energy prices and blackouts, there are no red lines to me. This is not about partisan politics.”
Green frustration with the SPD
There is no need for a long-term energy policy for the nuclear reactor in Lower Saxony, Nouripour told ntv. “So now I don’t see why we should change anything.” However, the green leader hopes that a decision will be made soon in the coalition. “Time is running out”. He was cautiously optimistic. “We will talk to each other and of course, as always, we will find a solution.” Pressure for a quick deal is also coming from the SPD. On Friday, the Chancellor announced a deal at the start of the new week. Lindner specifically rerouted him for the return trip from Washington, Habeck no longer participated in Sunday’s conference of federal delegates. A meeting and phone call between the top three politicians had been unsuccessful last week.
If a solution is found, it could still be the case that the coalition committee is due to meet earlier in the week. If the Greens don’t give up, Lindner might need another hit to show for themselves. It is conceivable that the Greens are willing to compromise elsewhere, but there has been no sign of a possible approach here either. The conflict is not limited to the FDP and the Greens, but there is also a bad mood between the Greens and the SPD. The fact that the Social Democrats blamed Habeck alone for the debacle surrounding the gas tax also contributes to tensions, as does Scholz’s indecisiveness on the issue of nuclear power plants.
Everyone wants to be pragmatic.
The SPD had run its successful election campaign in Lower Saxony, among other things, on the promise that the Emsland nuclear power plant would be shut down as planned at the beginning of the year, also because the fuel rods had nearly burned out. . But since then the SPD has been reluctant to take a clear position. If there were to be a power cut in winter, the Greens apparently don’t want to take sole responsibility for the common traffic light energy policy. But if the chancellor fully endorses Habeck’s plan on Sunday night, there is a risk of more trouble with the Liberals, who are weak in the polls, especially party leader and federal finance minister Lindner.
SPD parliamentary group leader Katja Mast called on the stoplight coalition for “healthy political pragmatism” on Sunday. “My impression is that people don’t care who has what political stake in the nuclear debate,” said the first parliamentary director of the SPD parliamentary group. Another Social Democrat, Federal Labor Minister Hubertus Heil, put it similarly. “This is not an ideological question, but a pragmatic one,” Heil told Berlin’s “Tagesspiegel.”
Nuclear energy advocates FDP and Union call for pragmatism when they want to activate any energy source in the face of a winter energy crisis. But the Greens also consider themselves just as pragmatic, who, due to the unresolved issue of final storage, reject further nuclear waste from new fuel rods, as well as the permanent continued use of nuclear power plants, whose TÜV in-depth -inspection periodic security – is three years late. But the chancellor also believes that pragmatism is one of his strengths.
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