The Bavarian village of Gundremmingen is so proud of its nuclear power station that its coat of arms is graced with a giant golden atom.
However, change is coming to the village, with the plant facing imminent closure under Germany’s energy transition policy.
Former Gundremmingen mayor Wolfgang Mayer’s house has direct views of the imposing complex with its two 160m cooling towers — taller than the spires of Cologne Cathedral.
The plant still produces 10 billion kilowatt-hours of power per year, although parts of it have already been shut down — enough to provide the entire Munich metropolitan region with electricity.
The power station is to be decommissioned on Dec. 31, along with two other facilities in northern Germany. By the end of next year, Germany would have achieved its goal of completely phasing out nuclear power, set by German Chancellor Angela Merkel on May 30, 2011, in the wake of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant disaster in Japan.
The plan represented a dramatic change of course by Merkel’s ruling conservatives, who just a few months earlier had agreed to extend the life span of Germany’s oldest power stations.
However, it was met with widespread public support in a country with a powerful anti-nuclear movement, fueled first by fears of a Cold War conflict and then by disasters such as Chernobyl.
However, in Gundremmingen, the decision has been a tough pill to swallow.
The nuclear power station has been “as much a part of the village as the church” and it feels as though “something is dying,” said Gerlinde Hutter, owner of a local guest house.
Meyer said it would take at least 50 years to remove all radioactive material from the site after the plant has been decommissioned.
The German government is still looking for a long-term storage site for the country’s residual nuclear waste.
Gundremmingen is not the only German village facing big changes as the country strives to implement its energy transition strategy.
Renewables have seen a spectacular rise since 2011, and last year made up more than 50 percent of Germany’s energy mix for the first time, according to the Fraunhofer research institute — compared with less than 25 percent 10 years ago.
The declining importance of nuclear power — 12.5 percent last year — “has been compensated for by the expansion of renewable energies,” Claudia Kemfert, an energy expert at the DIW economic research institute, told reporters.
Nuclear power stations have therefore not been replaced by coal, although the fossil fuel does still represent almost one-quarter of the electricity mix.
The phaseout of nuclear energy has been joined by another plan, announced in 2019, to close all of Germany’s coal-fired power stations by 2038.
This presents a particular challenge for Germany, which remains the world’s leading producer of lignite.
Mining for the brown coal, which is highly polluting, continues to lead to the destruction of villages in the west of the country to expand huge open-cast mines.
If Germany is to free itself from lignite, renewables such as wind, solar, biomass and hydropower would have to make up 65 percent of the energy mix by 2030.
Yet the country, which has long been at the forefront of wind energy in Europe, last year installed only 1.65 gigawatts (GW) of wind farms — the lowest level in a decade, the WindEurope advocacy group has said.
To meet the government’s targets, Germany would have to add 9.8GW of solar and 5.9GW of onshore wind annually, Kemfert said.
However, the development of new areas for wind or photovoltaic energy production is complex, with plans often coming up against resistance from local residents and the risk of damage to the landscape.
Unless storage and distribution can be improved via so-called virtual power plants, these new forms of energy do not have the same stability as thermal or nuclear power.
To secure its supply, Germany could therefore be tempted to build more gas-fired power stations.
However, this would risk reinforcing its dependence on Russia, as illustrated by the controversy surrounding the construction of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline.
A gas-fired power station is already in the works for the town of Leipheim, just around the corner from Gundremmingen.
SUPPLY HICCUPS: Poor manufacturing yields at Apple’s overseas suppliers have caused at least one maker of its new MiniLED displays to pause production, sources said The next-generation display destined to be a highlight of Apple Inc’s upcoming top-tier iPad Pro is facing production issues that could lead to short initial supplies of the new device, people familiar with the matter said. The Cupertino, California-based tech giant plans to showcase a new MiniLED display technology in the 12.9-inch iPad Pro set to be announced as early as the second half of this month. However, the firm’s overseas suppliers are dealing with poor manufacturing yields, the people who asked not to be named discussing sensitive matters said. At least one of the MiniLED makers has had to pause production as
END OF AN ERA: The Boeing 747-400 jumbo jets have served the airline well, but new-generation aircraft are more fuel-efficient, CAL chairman Hsieh Shih-chien said China Airlines Ltd (CAL, 華航) yesterday bid farewell to its last four Boeing 747-400 planes, ending the era of the “Queen of the Skies” at the airline. CAL has since 1975 operated a total of 29 747 series aircraft manufactured by Boeing Co. In 1990, it started receiving delivery of 19 747-400 jumbo jets, with the last one, the B-18215, delivered in 2005, it said. The B-18215 was the last of the passenger model produced by Boeing, making the 16-year-old aircraft the world’s youngest 747-400, CAL chairman Hsieh Shih-chien (謝世謙) told an event to bid farewell to the planes at Taiwan Taoyuan
Several hundred people have already booked their tickets and begun training for a spectacular voyage: a few minutes, or perhaps days, in the weightlessness of space. The mainly wealthy first-time space travelers are preparing to take part in one of several private missions which are preparing to launch. The era of space tourism is on the horizon 60 years after Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first person in space. Two companies, Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin LLC, are building spacecraft capable of sending private clients on suborbital flights to the edge of space lasting several minutes. Glenn King is the director of
RETAIL BANKING EXIT: Clients are concerned whether their rights would be protected, while employees were caught by surprise as the bank had just upgraded its services Citibank Taiwan Ltd (花旗台灣) yesterday said that credit card clients could continue using their cards as operations would continue normally until it sells its consumer banking business. As of February, the bank had 2.86 million credit cards in circulation in Taiwan, of which 2.17 million had been used in the past six months, ranking it sixth among all banks, data from the Financial Supervisory Commission showed. Credit card spending by Citibank clients totaled NT$15.66 billion (US$552.6 million) in February, also ranking sixth among banks in Taiwan. Citibank was the only foreign bank that made it into the top six. Customers should not