German utilities announced at a court hearing Tuesday they’re suing the government for $21 billion in damages due to the country’s controversial plan to shut down all nuclear reactors by 2022.
“The decision to end the use of nuclear power as soon as possible following the drastic events of Fukushima not only meets legal requirements, it was and continues to be the right decision,” Barbara Hendricks, Germany’s environment minister, told a panel of eight judges.
The government argues that the 2011 magnitude 9.0 Fukushima earthquake and tidal wave in Japan shows that nuclear power is unreliable and dangerous. Utilities argue that such events are extremely unlikely to impact Germany.
The shutdown plan has certainly done enormous damage to utilities, destroying their main sources of profit and increasing the price of electricity throughout Germany. The government has mandated that the nuclear reactors be replaced with wind or solar power, but the estimated cost of doing so is over $1.1 trillion.
The court’s decision is not expected for several months.
“Germany’s retreat from nuclear should serve as an important lesson as to what can happen when reliable, carbon-free nuclear energy is taken out of the energy mix. The country, which once was a leader in green energy innovation, is now lagging behind its emissions targets, a result of nuclear’s phase-out there,” a press spokesman from the bipartisan pro-nuclear power group Nuclear Matters, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “Other countries should keep this top of mind and ensure that nuclear energy remains a part of their energy portfolios to aid the transition to a cleaner energy future.”
In the year 2000, nuclear power made up 29.5 percent of Germany’s energy, but by 2015, nuclear power only provided 16 percent of German energy.
This decline has created an opening for coal-fired electricty, which now provides 44 percent of Germany’s power. This shift caused Germany’s carbon dioxide emissions to actually rise by 28 million tons each year after Germany’s nuclear policy changed.
Germany’s anti-nuclear movement has a long history. In 1975, 28,000 German protesters occupied a new reactor and managed to stop construction. And after the 1979 nuclear incident at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania, over 200,000 German protesters took to the streets.
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