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Germans warm up to nuclear

Updated: Jan 10, 2022

'Tis the season for all things holiday inspired, as people flock to retail stores and grocery markets to do their holiday shopping. In Germany, many people will also be stocking up on food supplies and candles—but not in preparation of the holiday season.

They will be bracing themselves for power outages that could very likely occur this winter.

In fact, the country's Civil Protection Office recently released public announcements intended to teach citizens how to prepare for and what to do in case of a power outage.

As Germans have been tuning into these state sponsored lessons on how to stay warm this winter, it appears they have also been warming up to nuclear.

Approval for nuclear power increases as electricity prices surge

Electricity prices in Germany have reached another all-time high with more than 75% of the population calling for the new federal government to lower prices.

Germany has moved away from nuclear power in recent years, pushed by a surge in anti-nuclear sentiment following Fukushima. But in the face of the country’s current energy struggles, the tide may be turning.

A recent study by Verivox, the largest independent consumer portal for energy in Germany, reveals that 31% of Germans now say they would prefer to keep nuclear power on the menu, compared to 2018 when the same study found only 20% wanted to hold onto nuclear power.

That’s more than a 50% increase in only three short years!

Pro-nuclear supporters take to the streets

Stats like these embolden the pro-nuclear movement which have remained relatively quiet in recent years.

Pro-nuclear activists in Berlin (Credit: Nikolaus J. Kurmayer)

But last weekend, with Germany set to shut down its last six reactors in 2022, a group of pro-nuclear enthusiasts showed up to support the extension of the remaining nuclear fleet.

Even climate scientist and longtime nuclear advocate Dr. James Hansen attended the rally. True to form, Hansen delivered a speech cutting straight to the core calling for nuclear plants to be preserved and for the closure of fossil fuel plants instead:

“Germany is attempting to have gas treated as a clean energy in the financial rules of the European Union and United Nations. And if Germany achieves this preposterous goal, young people worldwide will justifiably hold your nation in contempt."

The times they are a changin’

Nuclear power has long been a contentious issue in Germany with large anti-nuclear groups mobilizing to block the construction of new nuclear power plants since the 70s.

But with Germans now facing skyrocketing electricity prices, fear of blackouts—not to mention climate change and the detrimental health impacts related to rising carbon emissions—we are witnessing a change in both ideologies and consumer behaviour.

As Bob Dylan would say “the times, they are a changin'”. And from the looks of it, they may be changing for the better in Germany.


Written by Susie Ho, former Senior Advisor at the Nuclear Innovation Institute.


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