Germany powered down three of its six remaining nuclear power plants Saturday, making good on a government pledge to denuclearize after the 2011 meltdown of Japan's Fukushima reactor, Reuters reported.
The other three plants will be deactivated by the end of 2022. The six plants' combined output amounted to around 12 percent of the electricity produced in Germany in 2021. Coal and gas produce around 43 percent with most of the remainder coming from renewables like wind and solar.
Supporters of the shutdown see it is a necessary step in Germany's planned transition to renewable energy. Critics argue that, without nuclear, the country will burn increasing amounts of fossil fuels and have a less reliable power grid. A post-nuclear Germany would also be forced to rely more on Russia for the natural gas it exports, a dangerous vulnerability at a time when Russia's bellicose behavior in Eastern Europe has driven tensions with NATO — of which Germany is a member — to the breaking point.
An editorial in The Washington Post compared Germany unfavorably with neighboring France, writing that "French President Emmanuel Macron is moving in the opposite direction, announcing plans for new nuclear reactors. France relies more on nuclear power than any other nation, a major reason the country has about half the per capita greenhouse emissions Germany does."
Independent energy journalist Angelica Oung concurred. "It makes no sense from a climate perspective to shut down nuclear plants before their time is up. The cost both financial and in terms of carbon emissions is incurred in construction. Even worse is Germany's timing. To do this in the middle of a continent-wide energy crunch is all but guaranteed to drive up prices for consumers and increase [the use of] fossil fuels," she told The Week.
Nuclear energy suffered another defeat in Taiwan last month when voters rejected a referendum that would have allowed work to resume on the island nation's creatively named Fourth Nuclear Power Plant.