Wendler says the German nuclear industry is “resolved” to a nuclear power free Germany as the political consensus against nuclear will make it impossible to overturn the ban. However, analysts expect that the Green party’s decision to rule itself out of the future coalition could allow German Chancellor Angela Merkel some wiggle room in scaling back the speed of the shutdown, expected to cost 550 million euros.
Merkel has already named tackling the soaring cost of energy as one of four “big tasks” facing the forthcoming grand coalition. The others are the eurozone crisis, Germany’s aging population and federal reforms.
The owners of Germany’s nuclear plants — E.ON, RWE and Sweden’s Vattenfall — are suing the government for about 16 billion euros for the enforced closures, which the industry claims were unconstitutional. The legal battles, winding their way through the German courts and the World Bank’s International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes in Washington, are not expected to be resolved until 2015.
Roth said higher bills and the threat of compensation payouts were the “price we have to pay if you want to stop these terrible dangerous things.”
However, many of those living in the shadow of Krummel power station say they would rather live with the nuclear risk than soaring bills. The nuclear debate has centered on Krummel because the plant, owned by Vattenfall and E.ON in a 50:50 joint venture, fell victim to a series of accidents that led to it being dubbed the “Krummel monster.”
Built near the factory where Alfred Nobel discovered dynamite, the plant caught fire in 2007, when a transformer short-circuited. The fire did not reach the reactor, but the plant was shut immediately while the company and officials investigated.
More than 700 million euros was spent repairing the damage and investing in new technology at Krummel and a similar Vattenfall plant nearby. The Krummel reactor was switched back on in 2009, but within days another transformer short-circuited. Further millions were invested tightening safety and the plant was preparing to go live in March 2011, when the tsunami struck Japan and caused the Fukushima meltdown.
“Nuclear is dangerous, but there are dangers in everything and Germany is known for having the strictest controls,” said Sandra, a chemical assistant at Krummel. “Germany is stupid to close these plants after investing so much money. All the countries around us aren’t closing their plants and the UK and Turkey are building new ones. If something happens, the fallout and the horror will not stop at the border.”