Renuclearize Germany

Ben Swistun ’22

Energy production is something North Americans take for granted, but the effects of reliance on
hostile powers’ power is felt right now across the Western world. Despite Canada’s high gas prices,
we are relatively unscathed compared to Germany. Thanks to political pressure against nuclear power, Germany is heavily reliant on domestic coal and oil imported from Russia to power its energy grid.

In 2002, Germany’s power grid consisted of 22.4% nuclear power and nuclear energy was their second-largest energy source just behind coal. Yet as of 2021, nuclear energy produces
only 8.1% of their power and coal use has increased. Germany’s power grid has made
large strides in other forms of renewable energy; however, they have chosen to replace their
nuclear energy with coal, which is less efficient in every way. But what started this devolution of
the German power grid?

In the 1980s, the Green Party started as an anti-nuclear energy party. In the early 2000s, they
formed a minority government with the Social Democratic Party (SPD). Initially, they had little impact and nuclear energy remained. But in 2011, things began to change. After the Fukushima nuclear powerplant disaster in Japan, people were becoming more skeptical of nuclear

The Greens managed to create a minority government again, but this time, they began cutting
nuclear energy. They have closed 11 nuclear power plants since. When one power source
is cut, another one needs to take its place, and Germany switched back to coal to maintain its industrial presence. Coal is part of the reason Germany industrialized so rapidly, but as nuclear began to become more prominent in the 1980s and 1990s, coal power plants were shut down. With the recent nuclear energy cuts, they have switched back to the older coal plants. This was the easiest solution for Germany because they still have the 6th largest coal reserves in the world, with an estimated 39,802 million tons of coal remaining. It was cheaper for Germany to switch to coal
and have their campaign promises fulfilled than to take their time and switching to another
clean power source.

Why does the Green Party of Germany hate nuclear energy so much? The party was formed
out of the Cold War, when nuclear anything was seen as overly dangerous, and for some reason,
dirty. Despite nuclear energy producing zero carbon emissions and being completely safe when built and maintained properly, it was (and still is) seen as harmful to the environment. In reality, it is
an important energy source that must be employed to maintain energy production while renewable energy is implemented.

As a result, Germany’s Green Party is far less green than any other political party in Germany.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock