Greenpeace Germany Executive Director Brigitte Behrens reflects on the importance of the German Parliament’s decision to phase out the country's nuclear power plants, not just in Germany, but because of the example it sets for other nuclear-powered countries.
Germany’s vote is historic, not only as it on a final nuclear phase-out by 2022, but even more importantly the Parliament decided on a definite power shift to renewable energies as the replacement. The law was passed in with an overwhelming majority of 513 votes in favour, with a mere 79 votes against and eight abstentions. The decision will be in compliance with the German -40% CO2 reduction objective from 1990 to 2020 and importantly will comprise a significant drop in coal use.
The whole package is a very important signal to the world: Germany is convinced by and committed to the fact that renewable energies and efficiency technologies will not only contribute to more sustainable life on earth, but a more sustainable economic future. The potential for job creation and economic success is underscored by the fact that the move was supported by trade unions, including the largest metal worker's union.
Importantly, the phase out law will be combined with related laws securing the switch to renewables including the acceleration of investments in new grids; increased energy efficiency; the promotion of on-shore wind energy and a revised feed-in-tariffs for renewable electricity.
The nuclear phase out itself comprises the following steps: Eight nuclear reactors - under a moratorium since March 2011 and the Fukushima disaster - will not be restarted and will be phased out. This is wonderful because they are the oldest ones representing the highest risks. The other nine nuclear reactors will be phased out gradually until 2022.
The fact that the phase-out dates are fixed and do not contain loopholes for extensions into the future is excellent. This helps of course the decisions by investors in renewables and gives planning security for new grids.
However, we are still critical about the fact that the newest reactors will be allowed to run until 2022. This implies another 11 years of unnecessary health and environmental risks. As we showed with our energy revolution scenario ('Der Plan') - the phase-out can be achieved by 2015. Another critical question is still open: the fate of the looming stockpiles of nuclear waste that have been left behind by Germany's reliance on nuclear power; there still is no acceptable solution.
Nevertheless, the outcome is far better than the situation in the autumn 2010 when the government not only overturned a previous decision to phase out nuclear energy, but introduced life-time extensions of the nuclear reactors for an average of 12 years till 2032 with further loopholes. The catastrophes in Fukushima shocked not only the citizens, but also parts of the government including our chancellor Angela Merkel.
Since March 11th, all our staff and volunteers have been working relentlessly to distribute information about the catastrophes in Fukushima and to take the historic chance to promote the energy revolution in Germany. We published several studies, we promoted a popular version of our energy scenario, we gave thousands of interviews, argued with politicians at all levels, conducted the biggest mobilisation ever - and we were successful! Let's hope that the German message will help push the energy revolution world-wide!
Read Greenpeace Germany's report on how it can go nuclear free by 2015 here.