Toads for FDP and Greens: What would a nuclear speed limit deal bring?

The CDU has started a debate: longer running times for the last three nuclear power plants, combined with a speed limit.

Toads for FDP and Greens: What would a nuclear speed limit deal bring?

The CDU has started a debate: longer running times for the last three nuclear power plants, combined with a speed limit. That would be quite a toad for both the FDP and the Greens. What good would it do to choke her down?

In the debate about energy savings, there could be a compromise that actually seems impossible: the FDP agrees to a speed limit, the Greens to an extension of the life of the remaining three nuclear power plants.

The debate was initiated by the CDU. At the weekend, CDU Vice President Andreas Jung was open to a speed limit and demanded that nuclear energy also be discussed. On Monday, Union faction leader Jens Spahn proposed a "national compromise" that would include a six-month extension and a speed limit that would also be limited.

The FDP ruled out such "horse trading". But quotes from the traffic light also point to the possibility of compromises: On Sunday evening, Greens boss Ricarda Lang said to Anne Will about term extensions that "as of now, this would not be the right way". On Monday, a spokeswoman for Economics Minister Robert Habeck pointed out that the issue would be decided "on the basis of clear facts".

The political attraction of a nuclear speed limit deal would be that the FDP and the Greens would each have a requirement met and would each have to swallow a toad - for the SPD an extension of the term would probably be easier to digest. More important, however, is the question of what horse-trading would bring.

How long a speed limit would apply would be a political question alone. Technical aspects would also play a role in a lifetime extension: uranium would be needed for new fuel rods, and one of the most important uranium exporters is Russia of all places.

Or would it work without Russia? In June, a spokesman for the nuclear technology industry association told the newspaper "Münchner Merkur" that it would be possible to procure new fuel rods in good time before the end of the year, and that imports from Australia or Canada would also be possible as a substitute for deliveries from Russia and Kazakhstan, which is an ally of Russia.

However, a service life extension with new fuel rods would hardly be enforceable even in a "national compromise". It is no coincidence that Spahn spoke of half a year. That would be a service life extension without new fuel rods: For the Isar 2 nuclear power plant near Landshut, TÜV Süd estimates that continued operation with the existing fuel rods would be possible until August 2023 - initially for 80 days in normal operation, then another three months by rearranging the existing fuel elements . In total, an additional amount of electricity of around 5160 gigawatt hours can be generated. TÜV Süd also considers it plausible that Block C of the Grundremmingen nuclear power plant, which was shut down on December 31, 2021, could generate another 4,900 gigawatt hours of electricity over a period of around six months with the fuel elements available there. In total, that would be almost 2 percent of the electricity fed into Germany in 2021.

There are no such figures for the other two nuclear power plants that are still in operation, Emsland in western Lower Saxony and Neckarwestheim 2 in Baden-Württemberg. The boss of the German energy group RWE, Markus Krebber, told ntv: "We have no more fuel rods. The fuel rods will be used up at the end of the year." RWE operates the Emsland nuclear power plant.

A similar calculation can be made for a speed limit. According to a calculation by the Federal Environment Agency in April, a speed limit of 130 km/h on German autobahns would mean that 1.5 million tons of CO2 would not be emitted each year. According to the ADAC, this corresponds to fuel savings of around 600 million liters per year. A speed limit of 120 or even 100 km/h would of course bring even more. But that would be as attractive for the Union and the FDP as a lifetime extension with new fuel rods for the SPD and the Greens.

It could be that the savings potential of a speed limit is a little higher than the 600 million liters mentioned: The Federal Environment Agency points out that the values ​​refer to the year 2020, in which the mileage was lower than in previous years due to the pandemic. With figures from 2018, the authority had previously calculated a savings potential of 1.9 million tons of CO2 for Tempo 130. With this figure, the amount of fuel saved would also be correspondingly higher.

Neither fuel nor nuclear power can directly replace gas, but both can provide relief. Because gas is converted into electricity; Electricity from gas-fired power plants accounted for 13 percent in the first quarter of 2022. And occasionally crude oil can replace gas, both in industry and in so-called bivalent gas power plants. Neither would end a gas shortage when it comes. But Habeck has already argued that "every kilowatt hour" helps in the current situation.

Irrespective of the savings potential, both measures would also send a clear signal to business and consumers. "As long as we don't have a speed limit on the freeways, I don't think politicians are really serious about reducing energy consumption," said energy specialist Bruno Burger in ntv's "Climate Laboratory". A speed limit and a running time extension would make it very clear to many people how important it is now to save energy.

(This article was first published on Monday, July 18, 2022.)

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