Germany Nuclear Scandal: Forcing Shutdown of Plants During Energy Crisis Was Based on Deception, Report Claims

15 April 2023, Berlin: Tourists from the Philippines pose with swords and shields in front
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The German government knew shutting down nuclear plants during the Ukraine war energy crisis was a bad idea but did it anyway, and the Green party minister may have been been deceived by his own people to make sure the closures went ahead, a magazine that sued the government to get internal documents released claims.

Germany ordered the closure of its final three nuclear power plants in 2022, the culmination of a years-long process to transition towards ‘renewables’, which ironically left the nation scrabbling for hydrocarbons like brown coal, gas, and LNG. This confirms long-held “suspicions” of government lies, the conservative opposition says.

That pushing ahead with the final nuclear closures at the same time as Russia’s war against Ukraine, which caused an energy crisis in Europe was a bad idea was obvious, apparently, to everyone except the government. Indeed, the state had insisted in March 2022 that keeping the nuclear plants open would have no impact on Germany’s energy production, and that they were not safe to keep anyway.

Yet new claims by a German news magazine that took the government to court to get internal documents released claims this apparently counterintuitive decision was actually based on deception. A key briefing document questioning the policy may have been withheld from the Green Party minister responsible, Robert Habeck, allegedly in a deliberate move to keep him in the dark and set on the de-atomisation course.

Germany’s opposition has threatened a committee of enquiry if Habeck and his ministry doesn’t immediately hand over all documents relating to the early nuclear shutdown for scrutiny. Habeck, for his part, insists “nothing has been hidden” and denies the scandal, and co-governing liberal party the FDP expresses concern, but warns feeding the scandal risks giving opportunity to the right-wing populists and “conspiracy theorists”.

26 April 2024, Berlin: Robert Habeck (Alliance 90/The Greens), Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Climate Protection, takes part in a press conference on progress in the energy transition. Photo: Michael Kappeler/dpa (Photo by Michael Kappeler/picture alliance via Getty Images)

15 April 2024, Bavaria, Essenbach: The decommissioned Isar 2 nuclear power plant. PreussenElektra provides information on the dismantling of the Isar 2 nuclear power plant. Photo: Armin Weigel/dpa (Photo by Armin Weigel/picture alliance via Getty Images)

The claims come from German political news magazine Cicero, which asserts the documents it forced to be released show: “how the Green Party’s puppet masters manipulated the decision to extend the life of German nuclear power plants in 2022. Robert Habeck was also misinformed.” The key document is a March 3rd 2022 paper from a specialist department inside Habeck’s department of the Federal Ministry of Economics which states of a post-nuclear Germany that the country has enough gas-powered plants to keep the country supplied with energy, but not enough gas to keep them working all winter.

Extending the life of Germany’s final nuclear plants would “help defuse this situation” leading to a projected fall in energy prices. The paper further pointed out that already-mothballed coal-fired plants would not be wholly suitable to plug the gap, given they were very old and prone to be unreliable, suffering breakdowns. It would be “extremely risky” to rely on gas alone.

Russia had invaded Ukraine a month before, and signs of a looming gas supply crisis were already clearly visible.

Yet the message delivered to the public by Habeck days later was very much the opposite, with the Green-left coalition government reassuring that “the energy economic added value of an extension of the [nuclear plants] is very limited”.

This may not have been Habeck’s fault entirely, as Cicero states it has discovered he was never shown the briefing document, and the most senior government member who saw the paper was Habeck’s deputy, Patrick Graichen, who later resigned over a series of corruption scandals. Questioning whether life-long Green fanatic Graichen had deliberately withheld the paper from his boss to make sure the nuclear shutdown went ahead, Cicero asked rhetorically whether the politician had “let it disappear in a drawer”.

As summarised by by Welt in their report: “Habeck was apparently deceived by his own people… top officials apparently kept the warnings secret even from the minister”

While Habeck can claim ignorance of the briefing document, he surely could not claim to be unaware of the great volume of public discourse on the wisdom of ending nuclear during a gas crisis. Coalition partner the FDP called it a strategic mistake when the final closure date in 2023 came, the Polish government offered to lease Germany’s plants to keep them running, and even green queen Greta Thunberg pleaded with Germany to change its mind.

Experts from the nuclear energy industry association went public in June 2022, counselling against the idea. They said: “We advocate using all available sources to get through the energy crisis better… The power plants are in the process of being shut down. The longer you wait, the harder it is to get them back up.”

The claims are already brewing into a scandal in Germany, but the Green-left coalition government insists facts are being misrepresented. Their right-liberal coalition partners the FDP also advise caution, if only to prevent handing a victory to their conservative-populist political opponents.

Their spokesman said: “I find it difficult to imagine that in such a controversial debate in a ministry the minister would not be aware of it. That wouldn’t reflect well on the leadership of the house”. But at the same time he warned against creating a space for “conspiracy theorists and the AfD” to claim the government works secretly or misleads the public.

Speaking on Friday, Habeck addressed the claims at a press conference and denied any wrongdoing. He said, reports Focus: “Nothing has been hidden… The power plant operators also said at the time that the fuel elements were exhausted. The story that the files spread is different than the one that was spread in the media yesterday. Nothing has been hidden.” Habeck’s department the Ministry of Economic Affairs also pushed back, asserting the version of events expressed in Cicero was “shortened and without context”, and its conclusions “not accurate”.

More information would undoubtably cast more light on the issue, the claims and counter-claims. Seeking to get it is the German conservative-centrist opposition the CDU, formerly the party of long-time Chancellor Angela Merkel. They demand the government hands over all documents relating to shutdown of nuclear, otherwise “consquences” of a committee of enquiry are threatened.

Party spokesman Thorsten Frei reflected: “The old suspicion is confirmed: Parliament and the population were lied to when nuclear power was phased out”.


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