Germany closes last reactors; G7 nations agree on nuclear

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Greenpeace celebrate in Berlin after Germany closes its last reactors (Source: Reuters/Nadja Wohlleben)

Germany closed its last three nuclear reactors on Saturday, April 15, after more than a decade of promises from politicians that its nuclear program would be shut down following the accident at Fukushima, Japan.

Germany has built and placed into commercial operation 37 nuclear power plants since 1962 and the campaign to close the sector has helped create one of the country’s most active political parties, the Greens.

Some 50,000 protestors formed a 45-kilometer-long human chain demanding the closure of the Germany nuclear sector after the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Okuma on March 11, 2011, caused by one of Japan’s most power earthquakes and subsequent tsunamis.

Chancellor Angela Merkel passed a law to exit nuclear power by 2022 shortly after the protests.

The phase out was delayed after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine led to fossil-fuel sanctions and soaring prices which forced German utilities to ramp up coal-powered plants to compensate.

German’s Greens believe the country’s electricity will come entirely from renewable sources while, in the short-term, they will rely on coal and stored natural gas to generate electricity.

Nuclear power generated more than a third of Germany’s power at its height in the nineties but the last three reactors – Isar II, Emsland and Neckarwestheim II – contributed only around 5% of electricity generation when they were closed.

Two thirds of Germans support extending the lifespan of nuclear plants or reconnecting old plants and only 28% back the closedown, according to the survey by Forsa.

"The phase-out of nuclear power makes our country safer; ultimately, the risks of nuclear power are uncontrollable,” Federal Minister for the Environment and Nuclear Safety Steffi Lemke said in a statement following the closures.

Five G7 nations reach accord on nuclear

Leaders of five G7-nation nuclear trade associations, including from the UK, United States, Canada, Japan, and France, have released a joint declaration supporting the long-term operation of existing nuclear power plants and to accelerate the deployment of new plants.

The statement was issued at the Nuclear Energy Forum alongside the meeting of the G7 Ministers on climate, energy, and the environment in Sapporo, Japan.

The declaration was also signed by World Nuclear Association Director General Sama Bilbao y León.

“Those countries that opt to use nuclear energy recognize its potential to provide affordable low-carbon energy that can reduce dependence on fossil fuels, to address the climate crisis, and ensure global energy security as a source of baseload energy and grid flexibility,” the statement read.

The statement noted the impact of the war in Ukraine on global energy supplies and the need to support “cooperation among like-minded countries with shared values, as well as working with reliable partners to reduce dependence on Russia and to ensure security of supply by a continuous supply diversification efforts.”

“We recall the G7 Leaders’ commitment to evaluate measures to reduce reliance on civil nuclear-related goods from Russia and to assist countries seeking to diversify their supplies,” the statement said.

US may help finance Poland SMR program

The U.S. EXIM Bank and the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) have expressed interest in lending up to $4 billion to Poland’s ORLEN Synthos Green Energy’s (OSGE) project to deploy GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy’s BWRX-300 small modular reactors (SMRs), ORLEN said in a statement.

EXIM Bank and DFC representatives signed letters of intent with OSGE in April, with EXIM Bank looking to lend up to $3 billion and the DFC another $1 billion for the construction and deployment of the first two units of the BWRX-300 SMRS.

Poland’s largest banks PKO BP, Pekao, BGK, and Santander Bank Polska have also expressed interest in providing financing for the OSGE project, it said.

Other investors include the U.S. Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and Canada’s Ontario Power Generation (OPG).

OSGE is the first Polish company to sign a nuclear power plant design contract and may actively participate in the design process, the company said.

“The involvement of such reputable partners in our SMRs deployment project is the best proof of the enormous importance of our initiative not only for Poland, but also for the U.S. government,” CEO of OSGE Rafal Kasprow said.

Terrestrial Energy completes regulatory review

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission’s (CNSC) has completed Phase 2 of the pre-licensing Vendor Design Review (VDR) for Terrestrial Energy’s Integral Moten Salt Reactor (IMSR) power plant, the company said in a statement.

It is the first advanced, high-temperature fission technology to complete the VDR, the company said.

“The VDR is a comprehensive pre-licensing regulatory review, and its completion is a breakthrough for Terrestrial Energy. Its scope and conclusion provide commercial confidence to proceed to licensing and construction of IMSR plants,” said CEO of Terrestrial Energy Simon Irish.

“It is the first technology review completed by a major regulator of a nuclear plant design that uses a Generation IV reactor technology to supply heat at high temperature, and the first time for molten salt reactor technology.”

The VDR covered 19 focus areas and required Terrestrial Energy’s preparation of hundreds of technical submissions. After an extensive multi-year review, the CNSC staff concluded there are no fundamental barriers to licensing the plant, Terrestrial said.

By Reuters Events Nuclear