Germany shut down its three remaining nuclear power plants Saturday night, shedding a source of low-carbon power that critics say is needed to meet the country’s climate goals.
The plants, initially set to be shut off in December, were kept online through the winter to help cope with a cut in the supply of imported Russian gas. With Germany now heading into summer, when demand for gas heating falls, leaders took the Emsland, Neckarwestheim II, and Isar II nuclear plants offline, the Associated Press reports.
The move was cheered by anti-nuclear campaigners, who celebrated the conclusion of a decades-long push, catalyzed by the disaster at Chernobyl, to end nuclear power in Germany. But critics say the country should be prioritizing the drawdown of highly polluting coal, which accounts for close to a third of German electricity generation. Germany is aiming to shutter its coal fleet by 2038 on its way to hitting net-zero carbon emissions by 2045, and the loss of nuclear power could make it harder to reach this goal.
The three nuclear plants shut down this weekend “can supply more than 10 million, or a quarter, of German households with electricity,” dozens of scientists said in an open letter calling on German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to keep the plants online. “The resulting reduction in the amount of electricity required from coal-fired power plants could save up to 30 million tons of CO2 per year,” which is more than the yearly emissions of Denmark.