Seven nuclear power plants are going to be shut down for several months due to concerns about their safety. The measure was inspired by the nuclear plant problems in Japan, and the uncertainty surrounding the safety issues. The seven plants in Germany were built before 1980 and there is some sentiment they require extra safety inspections to ensure against problems. (Two of the older plants are already shut down; one for maintenance, and the other was taken offline in 2007 due to an accident.) There is currently no emergency situation in Germany related to the plants; it is a precautionary measure, and the two already down may never be restarted.
A decision by the German government some years ago targeted a shutdown of all their nuclear plants by 2021, but that was overturned and the plants were granted another twelve years to operate. Ten nuclear power plants there are still in operation with no problems. During the three month moratorium, fossil fuels like coal are going to have to make up the difference for energy production. The government and anti-nuclear activists have been engaged in a debate about the country’s nuclear plants for a number of years. It appears the oldest nuclear plants may be retired, depending on the safety reviews that will be conducted, with results known in June. About a quarter of the country’s electricity comes from nuclear.
Nuclear power accidents there have taken place in 1975, 1986, and 1987. In 1986 radiation was leaked at the Hamm-Uentrop facility to the surrounding four square kilometers. In 1987 at Biblic Nuclear power plant a valve problem caused a radiation leak. In 1975 at Greifswald a partial meltdown was caused by an electrical error. Germany currently has over six percent of their energy generated by wind power. One of their states, Saxony-Anhalt, gets over forty percent of their electricity from that renewable source. Besides accidents, another potential problem with nuclear power plants (although extremely unlikely) is terrorist attacks that damage them intentionally to release radiation, or a takeover for the same purpose.
Image Credit: Christian Horvat