Germany will extend the life of coal power in its shift from nuclear power

Germany will extend the life of coal-fired power stations to replace supply from the nuclear plants that could be shut down in the wake of the Fukushima disaster in Japan.

The three-month moratorium on seven nuclear power stations could be made permanent, and the rest of the country’s nuclear stations will be shut down by 2020, a decade earlier than planned, according to Juergen Becker, the German environment and nuclear safety secretary.

“The present discussion in Germany goes in the direction that the nuclear power plants that have been closed down during the moratorium will not be put back into operation – but they will be shut, closed down,” Mr Becker said on the sidelines of an International Renewable Energy Agency summit in Abu Dhabi. “What will have to happen is that still-existing coal power plants, their operational time will have to be extended for some time, which will be a bad thing for our [carbon dioxide emission] balance.”

Germany had originally committed to close its last nuclear reactor by 2022. But in September the government extended that date to 2036.

Before the moratorium, nuclear power accounted for more a quarter of Germany’s electricity supply. Renewable energy and modern coal-burning plants originally intended to replace older coal-burning plants will have to make up the lost power.

“The situation has somewhat shifted because these new efficient power plants were built to replace old, inefficient coal power plants, but now we will need them to replace nuclear power,” Mr Becker said. “Then we will have to make an extra effort to replace these old coal power plants by renewables. By the end of approximately 2020, we will have filled the gap and all the nuclear power plants can be shut down.

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