Bavarian Premier Markus Söder on Sunday proposed that his southern German state could assume control of the Isar 2 nuclear power plant, which was permanently taken off the grid, along with two other remaining power stations shortly before midnight.
Söder, who has been a staunch critic of Germany’s decision to transition away from nuclear energy, told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper that the move would require an amendment to the Atomic Energy Act to hand control of nuclear power from the federal to the state level.
“Bavaria is, therefore, demanding that the federal government give states the responsibility for the continued operation of nuclear power. Until the [energy] crisis ends and while the transition to renewables has not succeeded, we must use every form of energy until the end of the decade. Bavaria is ready to face up to this responsibility,” the chair of the center-right Christian Social Union (CSU) told the newspaper.
“We are a pioneer in nuclear fusion research and are examining the construction of our own research reactor, in cooperation with other countries,” Söder added. “It can’t be that a country of engineers like Germany gives up any claim to shaping the future and international competitiveness.”
The Bavarian state premier said the country’s nuclear plants are not “museums” but an “indispensable part of an affordable energy supply.”
Isar 2 is the second, more powerful reactor at the Isar nuclear power plant, which lies some 80 kilometers (49 miles) northeast of Munich. The first reactor was shut down in March 2011.
Greens accused of ‘endangering’ Germany’s prosperity
During the interview, Söder renewed his criticism of Germany’s nuclear phaseout, noting that “all of Europe relies on climate-friendly nuclear power.”
He took aim at the climate change-focused Green Party — one of three in Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s governing coalition — accusing them of “harming climate protection, our economy and endangering our prosperity.”
Söder said the coalition was acting “extremely naively and negligently” by hoping that next winter will be as mild as the last.
He noted that the Federal Network Agency, the country’s energy regulator, has warned of an energy supply crunch next winter, despite Germany securing fresh supplies of liquified natural gas (LNG) to offset the lack of Russian natural gas.
U-turn on nuclear phaseout unlikely
Söder’s call is unlikely to be heeded. Germany’s three-party governing coalition committed to ending the country’s reliance on nuclear power when it took office in December 2021.
The country’s nuclear phase-out has been on track for more than a decade. The decision to end nuclear power in Germany was sealed following the 2011 disaster in Fukushima by then-Chancellor Angela Merkel of the Christian Democrats (CDU), the larger sister party to Söder’s CSU, and her then coalition partners the neoliberal Free Democrats, a member of the current governing coalition that has been critical of the move away from nuclear power.
Germany took its remaining three nuclear power plants — Isar 2 in Bavaria, Emsland in Lower Saxony, and Neckarwestheim 2 in Baden-Württemberg — off the grid on Saturday night, in a move celebrated by environmental activists but criticized by pro-business and conservative politicians.
In Berlin, environmentalists gathered at the Brandenburg Gate to celebrate the shutdown of the reactors at midnight, while supporters of nuclear power also gathered there.
The closure was delayed from December 2022 to this month as a precaution, due to the energy crisis sparked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Despite the shutdown, the roughly 450 employees at Isar 2 will continue to receive fixed employment contracts until 2029 as the site still needs to be monitored and controlled.
Bavaria will go to the polls to pick a new state parliament on October 8.