The last of the country’s 17 commercial atomic reactors went offline last week an effort that began with the oil crisis of the 1970s and had been accelerated in recent years by events like the 2011 nuclear disaster at Fukushima, Japan.
Despite increased public acceptance of renewable energy, expansion was limited to avoid putting pressure on the coal industry. This meant that by the time of reunification of East and West Germany in 1991, more than a third of Germany’s electricity came from nuclear sources. This situation changed in 2000 when a coalition government led by Green Party members passed legislation calling for all reactors to be shut down by 2021.
However, this date was revised under former chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative led governments, before being finalized following the Fukushima incident. Arnold Vaatz, a former lawmaker for Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CUD), criticized this move as “the biggest economic stupidity” committed by his party since 1949.
Despite opposition, nuclear power still accounted for just 6 percent of Germany’s total energy production last year compared to 44 percent from renewable sources like wind and solar energy. A survey conducted earlier this week showed that two thirds of Germans either favor extending reactor lifespans or reconnecting older plants to the grid suggesting increased public acceptance for atomic power once again. The increase in support was mostly due to the rising costs of utility bills in the nation.
Another challenge posed is how best to deal with around 1900 hundred tonnes of highly radioactive waste generated in the process, which must be permanently stored before 2031. Currently the European union has had contracts to dump the waste in Somalia. There were also negotiations with south Africa to dump additional waste however the contracts never came to fruition. Thus far a solution has not been found.
As Germans face ever increasing utility bills, which has been blamed on the Russians, the government fails to search for innovative solutions for its citizens even though there are many choices on the market such as neutrino energy.