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Nuclear power has been around in Germany for around 50 years. Why completely phase out nuclear energy by 2022?

In 2011, Germany decided to phase out nuclear energy by 2022 at the latest. The decisive factor here was a reassessment of the risks: the nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan, made it clear that there are unforeseeable residual risks. The "Safe Energy Supply" ethics committee set up by the federal government came to the conclusion that nuclear power can be replaced by lower-risk technologies in an ecologically, economically and socially acceptable manner.


What is the point of switching off German nuclear power plants if our neighboring countries continue to produce nuclear power?

Germany has always attached great importance to an independent and secure energy supply and has done very well with it so far. This does not contradict the integration into the European internal market and energy trading with neighboring countries. Such a large market has an incomparable number of advantages in terms of prices, security of supply, stable grids, the expansion of renewable energies and the spread of efficiency technologies.

Every European country has the right to decide on the form of its energy supply for itself. In the future, Germany's role will be to use the energy transition to show alternatives to nuclear energy and fossil fuels and thus encourage imitation.


What are the effects of the German nuclear phase-out on the European energy supply?

In the future, too, Germany has the right to maintain the necessary capacities in order to completely cover its electricity needs itself. Regardless of this, Germany is at the center of the EU internal market, in which cross-border trading in electricity is part of everyday life.


Will the energy supply be guaranteed despite the nuclear phase-out?

The power supply in Germany is fed from various sources: coal, natural gas, mineral oil, nuclear power and various renewable energies. The capacities of the eight already decommissioned nuclear power plants could be replaced by existing reserves for the necessary electricity. The remaining nine nuclear power plants will gradually be expanded over the next few years due to the growth of renewable energies, the fossil power plants already under construction, load management, electricity storage and additional highly efficient and flexible gas power plants (combined heat and power, gas and steam power plants , Gas turbines) replaced.


How will Germany replace nuclear power?

The exit from nuclear power means a fundamental change in the energy system in Germany. Everyone must contribute to this. The necessary legal measures have been taken. But it is also crucial that the population accepts the changes: new power lines, new conventional power plants and the expansion of renewable energies. In addition, everyone is required to use energy as sparingly as possible.

If everyone saves more energy, the need to build new power plants is reduced accordingly. This automatically increases the percentage of renewable energies. In the long term, an electricity system based predominantly on renewable energies will secure the supply.


Where does the uranium for German nuclear power plants come from?

The uranium required in German nuclear power plants comes from abroad - from countries such as France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Great Britain, Sweden, Spain, the USA, Canada, Russia and China. The origin of the material is understood to mean the country in which the last conversion step in the processing of the uranium was carried out. In order to be able to use uranium as a nuclear fuel, essential domestic and intra-European production stages are necessary. The Euratom Treaty and the bilateral agreements between the European Atomic Energy Community and various third countries (e.g. Australia, Canada, South Africa) form the legal framework for uranium imports into the EU.

Further information can be found in the answers to the small questions (Bundestag printed matter 17/6037, 17/6310 and 17/10573). For information on supply in the EU, see the annual report of the Euratom Supply Agency (EURATOM Supply Agency Annual Report 2011, there in particular page 20 ff.).


Couldn't the exit be any faster?

The independent reactor safety commission and the ethics commission have examined how quickly we can get out of nuclear power. Result: The exit is possible within a decade. Germany will do without nuclear power by the end of 2022 at the latest. For the first time, there is a fixed and binding date for the exit, which is supported by a broad social consensus.

With the energy concept of the federal government, Germany is making considerable efforts to expand renewable energies, expand network and storage capacities, intensify building renovation, improve energy efficiency and provide additional power plant capacities. Nevertheless, a complete phase-out of the peaceful use of nuclear energy for the commercial generation of electricity is in fact not possible before the year 2022.


Will Germany influence other countries to also phase out nuclear energy?

Each country decides for itself about its energy supply. But there is great international interest in the energy transition in Germany.

The Fukushima reactor disaster sparked an intense debate not only in Germany but in many countries. Italy, for example, decided against re-entering nuclear power in 2011. At that time, Switzerland and Belgium also decided to phase out nuclear power.

Even if the safety standards of nuclear power plants in Europe are generally high, a discussion process on the safety of nuclear power plants had also started within the European Union after Fukushima. After carrying out EU-wide stress tests, the EU member states created national action plans based on the stress test recommendations. The implementation of the stress test recommendations is the responsibility of the respective member states and is monitored by the national supervisory authorities. The EU Commission supports the member states in the implementation and closely follows the progress.


How can we prevent Germany from importing electricity from nuclear power plants from abroad in the future?

There will continue to be imports and exports, because Germany is part of the European internal electricity market. Within Germany, electricity from renewable energies enjoys feed-in priority.


Isn't Germany going down a "special path" internationally with the nuclear phase-out and can it still have a say when it comes to higher safety standards in nuclear power plants internationally?

The federal government respects when other states decide to continue using nuclear energy. In any case, it is necessary to analyze risks comprehensively and control them as best as possible. Germany will therefore continue to engage in nuclear safety research and contribute its experience and expertise internationally so that accidents can be prevented.

Germany is setting standards with the energy transition - in the EU and worldwide. Many countries are following Germany's example and are putting their nuclear power plants to the test.


Isn't Germany losing competence and market share in the international energy market with the exit from nuclear energy?

Export shows Germany's pioneering role in terms of energy: With a world trade share of 15.4 percent, Germany takes a leading position in the export of environmental protection goods. Both the expansion of renewable energies and the increase in energy efficiency lead to the development of new products, new technologies and new export opportunities.

German companies are already successful in these areas. You have considerable growth opportunities. Today the renewable energies sector employs around 370,000 people. By 2030, employment could increase to more than half a million. This depends in particular on the development of energy prices and the export success of the renewable energies sector. Another advantage: the more electricity and heat that comes from your own sources, the fewer imports of oil, natural gas and other fossil fuels are necessary.


Can Germany achieve the German climate protection goals despite the nuclear phase-out?

An exit from nuclear power and simultaneous climate protection are ambitious, but can be achieved. The European emissions trading system capped emissions across Europe, so that the exit from nuclear energy will not have a negative overall effect on climate change.

As the share of renewable energies is growing and energy is being used more and more efficiently, CO2 emissions in Germany are tending to decrease. Even if they rose slightly by 1.2 percent in 2013, Germany as a whole significantly exceeded the reduction target of the Kyoto Protocol. Compared to 1990, greenhouse gas emissions fell by 22.8 percent in 2013; An average of 21 percent was necessary between 2008 and 2012. By 2050, around 80 percent of annual greenhouse gas emissions compared to 1990 are to be saved.


After the nuclear phase-out, will coal and gas once again play a greater role as energy sources in energy supply?

The power supply in Germany is fed from various sources: from coal and natural gas, mineral oil, nuclear power and from various renewable energies. As long as electricity from renewable energies is not yet sufficient and available at all times, conventional power plants will have to temporarily close the gap. Therefore, new conventional power plants are also planned or are already under construction. Of the conventional power plants, gas-fired power plants and combined heat and power plants are the most environmentally friendly.

The coupled generation of electricity and heat is therefore important in Germany both in industry and in public supply. In 2013, 18.1 percent of the total net electricity generation came from combined heat and power plants. The amendment to the Combined Heat and Power Act came into force on July 19, 2012. In particular, the surcharges for electricity from CHP systems have been increased, support for the modernization of systems and heating networks has been increased, and the promotion of heat storage systems has been included in the law for better support.

In the future, renewable energies will be able to take over the main part of the energy supply.


How will the nuclear power plants be dismantled? And who pays for it?

The dismantling of a nuclear power plant that is no longer in operation is the responsibility of the operator. To this end, it first develops a decommissioning concept and applies for a permit under Section 7, Paragraph 3 of the Atomic Energy Act from the responsible state authority under nuclear law. He has to bear the costs of the dismantling from the provisions that he created during the operation of the nuclear power plant. This also includes the disposal of the spent fuel elements and radioactive waste, including their final storage.


What are the costs associated with the faster phase-out of nuclear energy?

The aim of the energy transition is to secure the energy supply and make it economical and environmentally friendly. Because energy policy has to face new challenges: including climate change and the fact that fossil fuels are not infinitely available.

Costs and investments in a modern energy supply and in energy-efficient production processes are incurred immediately, but can sometimes be amortized in a short time. Economies that produce efficiently and innovatively can survive better in international competition. This is especially true in economically weaker times, as Europe is currently experiencing from the euro crisis.

Estimates of the costs of the energy transition are fraught with uncertainty. According to the scenario calculations commissioned by the federal government, the expected investment volume will be in the order of magnitude of up to 550 billion by the middle of the century. Other individual estimates indicate that investments of around 300 billion euros are required for building renovation alone. The transmission system operators currently estimate the cost of expanding the route for the electricity highways at 20 billion euros. In 2013 around 16 billion euros were invested in renewable energies.

Every investment also sets impulses. Example wind and solar systems: In 2013 alone, 16.3 billion euros were invested in such systems. In 2013, the renewable energies sector employed around 370,000 people. By 2030, employment could increase to more than half a million. Local small and medium-sized craft businesses in particular benefit from the construction contracts for energy-efficient building renovation. The building renovation program of the state-owned KfW Bank alone secures and creates around 300,000 jobs every year. Another advantage: the more electricity and heat that comes from renewable sources, the fewer imports of oil and natural gas are required.

Overall, studies lead to the expectation that the restructuring of the energy system also entails costs for the individual, which on the other hand are offset by relief in the form of lower energy costs.


When will there be a repository for waste from the nuclear power plants?

The Federal Government takes on the responsibility of an orderly disposal of highly radioactive material. For this reason, in 2010 it lifted the moratorium with which the search for a repository was avoided for ten years.

The safe disposal and final storage of radioactive waste is one of the major cross-generational tasks. It is therefore right to work out the necessary basic legislative decisions in a cross-faction and cross-national consensus. This prevents them from being questioned again and again through elections and changes of government.

With the energy concept of June 6, 2011, the decision was made to develop a new method for finding a location based on geological criteria. The federal and state governments work together to achieve this. Following the agreement of the federal government, the federal states and parliamentary groups on key issues, the federal cabinet passed the draft of a site selection law on April 24, 2013. It was brought into the Bundestag in parallel by all parliamentary groups and passed by the Bundesrat on July 5, 2013. It came into force on July 24, 2013.

In preparation for the search for a location, a “Commission for the storage of highly radioactive waste” was formed from politics, science and social groups. She should have completed her work by the end of 2015. The Commission will prepare a report as a basis for the site selection. Then the actual location search can begin. Important decisions within the selection process are passed by law. This applies, for example, to questions relating to the exploration of locations. The decision on the location itself will also be a law. In addition, the "Federal Office for Nuclear Waste Management" started its work on September 1, 2014. It provides the Federal Environment Ministry with technical and scientific support in all matters relating to the safeguarding and final storage of high-level radioactive waste.

Asse mine

Everyone involved agrees: the Asse II mine must be shut down quickly. The decommissioning will take place immediately as soon as the radioactive waste has been retrieved completely and safely. On April 25, 2013, the law to accelerate the retrieval of radioactive waste and the decommissioning of the Asse II mine came into force. With this law it has been possible to find a regulation that is supported by all parliamentary groups in the Bundestag and the Bundesrat. The residents of the salt dome also agree. There is thus an overarching consensus for this project.