Scholz settles the dispute between greens and liberals over nuclear energy: it will extend the life of three plants for four months

The German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, has had to assert his authority in the brawl that his coalition partners had over nuclear energy, one of the most thorny issues for the Germans. Greens and liberals had been in conflict for days over the expansion of the operation of the last three plants that are still open and that, according to the nuclear blackout schedule designed by former Chancellor Angela Merkel, should stop producing energy on December 31.

Scholz has sought a middle path between what the Greens, a deeply anti-nuclear party, were willing to accept and what the Liberals were asking for, who have no problem with Germany continuing to use radioactive fuel beyond 2023. The chancellor has given the order to keep the three plants in operation – and not two, as announced in September – until April 15 of next year.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent reduction in Russian gas supplies have forced Germany to change its plans to abandon nuclear energy in 2022. Before February, it was unimaginable that any party – except perhaps the extreme right of the AfD – would advocate extending the life of the plants, but the gas crisis has turned the foundations of Berlin’s energy policy upside down.

Scholz has not only faced pressure from the Christian Democrats in the opposition, but also from the Liberals, who from within the government have been hammering for weeks about how absurd it would be to close the plants at a time of dire need for energy.

The dispute has reached greater intensity since the painful defeat of the liberal party in the Lower Saxony elections, which has left them out of the regional Parliament by not exceeding the minimum of 5%. Pressured in turn to demonstrate his ability to influence the politics of the central executive, the finance minister, the liberal Christian Lindner, has been raising the tone against the green section of the coalition. He has even defended restarting the last closed plants.

In the middle, Scholz’s Social Democrats, who until Monday remained silent in the face of the dispute between the two minor partners. After two days of intense three-way meetings in Berlin, the chancellor has chosen to settle the issue by imposing his authority. In a letter addressed to the Ministries of Environment and Economy, led by the Greens, and Finance, he orders that preparations be launched so that the Isar 2, Neckarwestheim 2 and Emsland plants can operate until 15 December. april.

The Solomonic decision is a setback for the Greens, who already had to swallow many frogs when their Economy Minister, Robert Habeck, announced that two of the three plants would remain in reserve. Despite the fact that the no to nuclear is in the DNA of the party, its members in the Scholz government agreed weeks ago to extend the operation of atomic energy beyond December 31. They understood that it was an exceptional situation and left their dogmas behind in an exercise in pragmatism that citizens have appreciated with good results in voting intention surveys. This same weekend, at the formation’s congress, the delegates supported Habeck’s plan despite the fact that several interventions bitterly criticized that the party was denying its essence.

It is in the vital interest of our country and its economy that we maintain all our energy production capacities this winter. The Chancellor has now created clarity.

The Liberals are pleased with Scholz’s blow on the table: “It is in the vital interest of our country and its economy that we maintain all of our power-producing capacities this winter. The chancellor has provided clarity,” Minister Lindner said on his Twitter a few minutes after the letter was released. “The extended use of the Emsland plant is an important contribution to grid stability, electricity costs and climate protection,” he added, referring to the third plant that the Greens absolutely did not want to continue operating. beyond this year.

The final decision on the future of the last plants could not take much longer, because the closure on December 31, 2022 had been set by law for years. Changing the deadlines requires starting the process as soon as possible so that the Bundestag approves a new law in time for it to come into force before that date.

The Greens have marked themselves as a red line not to buy new fuel rods to power the plants, something that Scholz’s decision guarantees by extending their operation only a few months more than planned. But they disagree. “The Emsland plant is not necessary for the stability of the network,” the co-leader of the green party, Ricarda Lang, complained on Twitter.

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