Germany Powering Down Last Three Nuclear Plants

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A nuclear power plant
Source: © Vlastimil Šesták/

The last three nuclear plants in Germany–Emsland, Isar 2 and Neckarwestheim–shuttered on Apr. 15, 2023. While the plants have stopped providing power for the country, they will now face a long and costly dismantling process along with Germany’s other decommissioned nuclear plants.

The plan has been in place since 2000, but was questioned when a new government came to power in 2009. However, the nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan, prompted then-Chancellor Angela Merkel, a pro-nuclear physicist, to accelerate the timeline for shutting down Germany’s nuclear power plants. She called the Fukushima disaster an “inconceivable catastrophe for Japan” and marked it as a “turning point” in nuclear use.

Then Russia’s invasion of Ukraine put the closure of the last plants temporarily on hold as Germany navigated potential embargoes on Russian gas. 

Critics of the move remain adamant that the stations should remain open. “We need to keep existing, safe nuclear reactors operating while simultaneously ramping up renewables as fast as possible. Building new coal capacity is the opposite of what we need,” Leah Stokes, a professor of climate and energy policy at the University of California, Santa Barbara, explains to CNN.

While the German government has acknowledged that the country will have to rely on fossil fuels like coal more, the country has pledged to close all coal power plants by 2038, placing a fairly tight deadline on the transition to renewable energy.

Steffi Lemke, Germany’s Federal Minister for the Environment and Consumer Protection, states, “The position of the German government is clear: nuclear power is not green. Nor is it sustainable. We are embarking on a new era of energy production.”

Discussion Questions

1. Should nuclear power remain an energy option? Why or why not?

2. Should any energy options be phased out? If yes, which options and why? If no, why not?

3. Which renewable energy option do you think has the greatest potential? Explain your answer(s).


Associated Press, “Germany Begins Powering Down Its Last Three Nuclear Plants,”, Apr. 15, 2023

Laura Paddison, Nadine Schmidt and Inke Kappeler, “‘A New Era’: Germany Quits Nuclear Power, Closing Its Final Three Plants,”, Apr. 15, 2023