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Germany leaves door open for extending nuclear power use amid energy crisis

The German government on Monday indicated a potential shift on shutting off the country’s three remaining nuclear power plants by year’s end, saying Berlin would analyze whether leaving those facilities running longer could help boost energy security.

A spokesperson for the economy and climate protection ministry told reporters in Berlin that the government had tasked energy providers with running a stress test for Germany’s electric grid to determine whether power supplies could be guaranteed this winter, even if there are severe disruptions such as Russia cutting off its supplies of gas, which are partly used for generating energy in Germany.

This stress test would be conducted under more stringent assumptions than a previous test in the spring, the spokesperson said, adding that it would be “finalized within the next weeks.”

Crucially, the government’s deputy spokesperson also confirmed that the results of the stress test could justify extending the use of the nuclear power plants.

“From the outset, the question of nuclear power plants has not been an ideological one for the German government but a purely technical one, which has been subject to expert reviews and will now be subject to them once again under more stringent circumstances,” the government spokesperson said.

The phase-out of Germany’s last three nuclear plants is highly sensitive for the ruling coalition: The Greens, who are governing with Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democrats and the liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP), have pushed for ending the use of nuclear power by the end of this year, and until Monday this had been the official position of the government.

The FDP, however, has strongly advocated for extending the use of nuclear energy amid the current crisis, arguing this would reduce the need to use gas power plants for energy production and thereby help to curb Germany’s overall dependence on Russian gas. However, economists have challenged that argument.

Chancellor Scholz separately on Monday also accused Russian Russian President Vladimir Putin of weaponizing his country’s energy exports — as well as exports of Ukrainian grain, which Moscow is currently blocking from leaving the Black Sea.

“Moscow does not shy away from using grain deliveries and energy supplies as a weapon. We must take a firm stance against this,” Scholz said at a press conference in Berlin.

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