Nuclear power plant emergency reserve: traffic light noise about nuclear energy: why the actual stress test is still to come

Some call it so, others so.

Nuclear power plant emergency reserve: traffic light noise about nuclear energy: why the actual stress test is still to come

Some call it so, others so. And that roughly outlines the problem. The core question with the potential to split: nuclear power, no thanks or yes please?

In other words: the Greens and the FDP are once again crossed. At the moment, neither of the two parties to the conflict seems willing to back away from their position in the ongoing and ever-excited debate about nuclear energy. And the joint traffic light coalition with the SPD is thus heading for a massive conflict. But one by one.

The last three German nuclear power plants were scheduled to go offline at the turn of the year. In view of the energy crisis triggered by Russia and the war in Ukraine, not least the FDP fed the political discussion about the temporary continued operation of the reactors in order to prevent impending energy bottlenecks.

A push behind which the Greens could not gather. In the spring, Habeck rejected an extension of the service life, an initial report from his Ministry of Economic Affairs and the Federal Ministry for the Environment by Steffi Lemke (Greens) had advised against continued operation: too little benefit with too great a risk.

But with the situation in the electricity sector getting worse, and probably under increasing pressure from the FDP, Habeck commissioned a second stress test in the summer. Result: Continued operation of the three remaining nuclear power plants is "another building block", according to the analysis commissioned by the power grid operators, could at least make a limited contribution in critical situations.

This results in the actual stress test for the traffic light partners, since there is mainly dissent about the conclusions from the result.

In the ARD "Deutschlandtrend" in August, a clear majority of Germans spoke out in favor of at least temporarily continuing to operate the three remaining nuclear power plants in Germany. This is where the FDP comes in, which is trying to improve its political position in the traffic light coalition on the nuclear power plant, says political scientist Thomas Jäger from the University of Cologne to the star.

"When the traffic light coalition was formed, all three parties hoped to be able to raise their own profile in the government once the pandemic had subsided," said Jäger. Conflicts were foreseeable, as were the compromise areas. "Two developments have changed these compromise areas: Russia's war against Ukraine and its energy policy consequences, and the different profiles of the parties."

According to current polls, the Greens are now the largest coalition partner (last 24 percent approval), the FDP is still the weakest (last 7 percent). "That changes the conversation," says the expert. This can be seen in the example of the extension of the term.

The fact that a nuclear power plant should now be completely shut down is due to the upcoming state elections in Lower Saxony, just as the end of nuclear energy was due to the state elections in Baden-Württemberg in 2011, says the political scientist. "Both had little to do with a strategically designed energy policy for Germany as an industrial location," says Jäger.

In view of the security of supply and the development of electricity prices, it is incomprehensible why two nuclear power plants should remain on hold - however, it can be explained with a view to the intra-coalition decision-making process. "That should be the toad that the Greens would have to swallow," says the political scientist. "Whereby Federal Minister Habeck decides whether this will happen at all." Since the mood in German society is currently different than Habeck's decisions, "the FDP has the opportunity to use this issue to improve its political position in the coalition by gaining more approval from the electorate."

In October there are state elections in Lower Saxony, which could also provide conclusions about satisfaction with federal politics. According to current surveys, the Greens could increase compared to the last election, while the FDP is largely stable - albeit in the single digits.

Even if Habeck does not have to fear any major party-political headwinds, the minister obviously prefers to explain the nuclear power plant shutdown to the public - instead of having to explain to the Green Youth that the electricity price is economically significant. "A majority of Greens voters spoke out in favor of longer terms," ​​says political scientist Jäger, "but the suspicion that opposition within the party could be organized made those responsible shy away."

Possibly also out of concern that an extension of the term could be too much for the party. The Greens already made far-reaching about-faces on the subject of arms deliveries to war zones or the reactivation of coal-fired power plants - also due to a lack of alternatives. A departure from the pro-green anti-nuclear creed might have been the last straw.

"The FDP, which voted almost unanimously in 2011 to phase out the civil use of nuclear energy in Germany, can now only refer to the current crisis when it calls for lifetime extensions," says Jäger.

Neither of the two parties currently seems willing to back away from their position.

So what's left to hold onto? The Green Minister of Economics is struggling to allow two German nuclear power plants to continue operating - but that's not nearly enough for the FDP. So the actual stress test is still to come.

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