Foreign PolicyForeign Policy

Germany Confronts Its Nuclear Demons

By Allison Meakem

20 Jun 2022 · 19 min read

Editor's Note

Germany has dormant nuclear plants too, and they generate little carbon. But reopening them would be political suicide in a country with a "deep-rooted anti-nuclear orthodoxy."

On March 30, the German Council of Economic Experts, a group of five leading economists who evaluate German government policy, made a recommendation that broke a long-standing cultural and political taboo. To confront the looming energy crisis linked to Russia’s war in Ukraine, the economists wrote, Germany should consider delaying the phaseout of its three remaining nuclear power plants, slated for the end of this year.

The country is heavily dependent on imports of Russian natural gas, and most experts agree it is only a matter of time before Germans—whether through their own political will or that of Russian President Vladimir Putin—are cut off for good. The European Union has already finalized plans to embargo most imports of Russian coal and oil, which make up a much smaller—but still significant—share of Germany’s energy mix. Though gas remains the last unsanctioned holdout, Putin in May cut 3 percent of his country’s gas exports to Germany in what was largely seen as a power move. They were reduced further last week.

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