German chancellor Olaf Scholz declared on Monday that Germany’s three remaining nuclear facilities would remain in operation until April 2023, a development intended to maintain a stable supply of energy throughout the winter of 2022-2023 amid a shortage of natural gas following Russian supply cuts.
“The legal basis will be created to allow the operation of the nuclear power plants Isar 2, Neckarwestheim 2, and Emsland … until April 15, 2023,” the chancellor claimed in a statement. Before the new order, the three plants were scheduled to shut down by December 31 as part of a broader effort to eliminate nuclear energy within the country.
Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February, many German lawmakers urged Scholz to extend the plants’ lifespans, citing gas price increases and potential supply shortages following the increased tensions between Russia and Germany. The move to extend the nuclear plants’ lives comes weeks after an explosion destroyed the Nord Stream 1 pipeline connecting Russia to Germany via the Baltic Sea, substantially reducing German imports.
“It is in the vital interest of our country and its economy that we maintain all our energy production capacities this winter,” German finance minister Christian Lindner, a member of the governing Free Democratic Party, tweeted on Monday. “The chancellor has now created clarity.”
Despite the country’s energy difficulties, some members of the government—including many within the Green Party, the third-largest party in parliament and a member of Scholz’s “traffic light” coalition alongside the Social Democratic Party and Free Democratic Party—have opposed the nuclear renewal, pushing for the plants’ immediate shutdown. Last week, the Greens agreed to extend the lifespan of the Isar 2 and Neckarwestheim plants until April but insisted on the closure of the Emsland plant in December.
After Scholz’s announcement, German economy minister Robert Habeck, a Greens member, admitted that the chancellor had enough support for his proposal within the government that potential objections from the Greens could be overruled. However, Ricarda Lang, the party’s co-leader, still objected to the proposal, saying that the Emsland plant was “not required for grid stability” over the winter.
Along with the nuclear plants’ life extension, Scholz requested that the government present a law providing for the total elimination of coal from the German energy sector by 2030, describing it as an “ambitious” goal.
The German chancellor does not have the authority to unilaterally extend the lifespan of the nuclear plants, whose shutdown by the end of 2022 was previously codified into law, and has requested that the government find a “legal basis” for an extension.
Trevor Filseth is a current and foreign affairs writer for the National Interest.