Germany has closed its last three nuclear reactors and aims to expedite the country’s shift to renewable energy.

Germany originally planned to shutter its nuclear facilities by 31 December 2022, after prolonged debates over nuclear power’s unsustainability.

In the wake of the Ukraine-Russia conflict and the resultant energy crisis, the deadline was extended to 15 April 2023.

The German multinational energy company RWE announced the closure of the Emsland nuclear power plant in Lingen, Lower Saxony, after 35 years of operations, and the facility was disconnected from the power grid on 15 April 2023.

The Emsland facility was one of the three remaining nuclear power plants in Germany. The process of dismantling the plant safely will begin after a decommissioning licence has been granted.

Two other facilities, Isar 2 and Neckarwestheim, were shut down at the same time, and the German energy company EnBW also disconnected Unit II of the Neckarwestheim plant from the electricity grid on 15 April.

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EnBW plans to start the preparatory work for dismantling the unit in the coming weeks. The necessary licence has already been issued.

RWE operated its nuclear power plants in Biblis, Kahl, Mühlheim-Kärlich, Gundremmingen and Lingen for nearly six decades, and the closure of the nuclear facilities is said to mark the end of an era.

RWE CEO Markus Krebber stated: “The phasing out of nuclear energy in Germany is a political decision. Before arriving at this point today, nuclear energy was the subject of heated and passionate debates for decades. That chapter is now closed.

“Now it is important to put all our energy into forging ahead with the construction of hydrogen-ready gas-fired power plants as quickly as possible, in addition to the expansion of renewables, so that security of supply remains guaranteed when Germany ideally also phases out coal in 2030.”

Emsland power plant manager Wolfgang Kahlert stated: “For the power plant crew, the safe dismantling of the plant is now a priority.

“As one of the first measures, the reactor pressure vessel will be opened, the way it was done during previous overhauls. In the following weeks, the fuel elements in the core will be moved underwater to the fuel element storage pool.

“The actual dismantling activities will start once the decommissioning licence has been issued by the Environmental Ministry of Lower Saxony. Until then, only preparatory measures for dismantling will be carried out.”