Germany is by many considered as one of the leading countries when it comes to supporting the development of renewable energy. Having this in mind, the latest report according to which Germany would extend the life of its nuclear reactors by 12 years on average, came as a rather big surprise.
Nuclear energy is always a controversial issue, and Germany is no exception so it's really no surprise that this decision raised plenty of critics towards Chancellor Angela Merkel. Environmentalists and many energy experts believe that this decision was step backwards, and a hard blow for the future development of renewable energy.
Merkel defended her decision by saying that the decision to prolong life of nuclear reactors in Germany would really serve as a "bridge" until renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power can produce more of Germany's power as it seeks to reduce dependence on coal. Merkel also highlighted that without the nuclear power Germany could may as well forget about its target of reducing carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050 from 1990 levels. On the other hand many environmentalists argue that this decision is all about yielding to powerful nuclear energy lobby.
Environment Minister Norbert Roettgen said that the nuclear reactors in older plants will be extended by eight years and those of newer ones by 14 years, and he also added that nuclear utilities would have to pay part of their extra profits boosted from the extension to develop renewable energy.
The recent polls and surveys in Germany have shown that majority of Germans opposed the idea of postponing the date that the country goes nuclear-free which makes this decision even more surprising.
Austria's environment minister Niki Berlakovich was also very disappointed with such decision saying that "nuclear energy will not answer the problems related to climate or be a solution to reducing CO2 emissions because the future of energy supplies lies indisputably in renewable energy".
The time period of 10-15 years may not seem so long, but this also means that in the next 15 years renewables will not only have to compete with fossil fuels but also with nuclear power, which will make things very difficult for renewable energy industry , and may seriously slow down the development of wind and solar energy in Germany.