German industry can cope despite nuclear plant shutdowns

17 March 2011 18:09  [Source: ICIS news]

TORONTO (ICIS)--Germany’s industrial producers, including chemicals, will be able to cope with the sudden shutdown of seven of the country’s older nuclear power plants in the wake of the disaster in Japan, a top industry group and a research institute said on Thursday.

In an official declaration, Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday reiterated her government’s move to shut down seven of Germany’s 17 nuclear plants for a safety review.

While Germany’s nuclear industry is safe and the country would continue to need it until renewable energies become commercially viable, the “apocalyptic dimensions” of the situation in Japan changed things for nuclear power generation worldwide, Merkel said.

“When in Japan the apparently impossible becomes possible, when absolutely unlikely scenarios become a reality, then that changes things,” she said.

The government would also review its decision from last year to extend the average operating life-span of Germany’s nuclear power plants, she said.

Germany’s top industrial trade group BDI said the country’s producers would be able to cope with the situation in the near term.

However, BDI president Hans-Peter Keitel said if Germany phases out nuclear power generation, it needs to quickly begin a serious discussion on how to replace the lost capacity with oil, gas and coal power.

Renewables like wind and solar power could not make up the shortfall, he said.

Germany’s Oko ecology institute said the shutdown of the seven plants is less drastic than may appear at first glance.

Oko said under a previous plan to exit nuclear power generation by around 2022, which was reversed only last year, the plants now shut down would have been closed in the near future anyways.

This means that Germany is prepared to do without those plants, Oko said.

Also, Germany currently has surplus power capacities and is exporting large volumes of power to neighbouring countries, the institute added.

Some commentators said Germany seems to be overreacting, given that France, the UK and others keep their nuclear plants operating.

Germany’s chemical producers have often warned about the importance of affordable and reliable power supplies to maintain chemical production and jobs in the country.

Germany’s chemical industry group VCI is a member of BDI.

Click here for latest news on the Japan disaster
Read Paul Hodges’ Chemicals and the Economy Blog

By: Stefan Baumgarten
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