Germany Rejects EU Proposal for Nuclear Energy, Will Rely on Natural Gas

Germany's government on Monday rejected the European Union's proposals to include nuclear energy in the bloc's climate-focused plans and investments for the future. Instead, the European nation plans to lean heavily on natural gas as an energy source until it can transition to other sources that won't pollute the environment.

The EU sought to label the nuclear technology as "green," but German government spokesman Steffen Hebestreit told reporters in Berlin on Monday that they consider it "to be dangerous," Reuters reported.

"The government's position on nuclear energy remains unchanged. The government remains convinced that nuclear power cannot be classified as sustainable," Hebestreit.

"For the German government, natural gas is an important bridging technology on the way to greenhouse gas neutrality against the background of the phase-out of nuclear energy and coal-fired power generation," he added.

After phasing out the polluting energy sources, the government will be able to replace it with non-polluting sources, such as hydrogen made with renewable energy, by 2045, which Germany set as its deadline to reach climate neutrality.

Germany isn't the only EU member state to reject nuclear power as an energy source. Austria and Luxembourg also oppose the technology, but other EU states like the Czech Republic, Finland and France consider nuclear energy as essential to leaving behind coal fuel power that emits carbon dioxide, Reuters reported.

EU Energy Proposal
Germany’s government on Monday rejected the European Union’s proposals to include nuclear energy in the bloc’s climate-focused plans and investments for the future. Above, steam rises from cooling towers of the Grohnde Nuclear Power Plant near residential houses in the village of Latferde on November 8, near Grohnde, Germany. Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Germany is on course to switch off its remaining three nuclear power plants at the end of this year and phase out coal by 2030, whereas its neighbor France aims to modernize existing reactors and build new ones to meet its future energy needs.

The opposing paths taken by two of the EU's biggest economies have resulted in an awkward situation for the bloc's executive Commission. A draft EU plan seen by the Associated Press concludes that both nuclear energy and natural gas can under certain conditions be considered sustainable for investment purposes.

Hebestreit noted that the question of what to do with radioactive waste that will last for thousands of generations remains unresolved.

He added that Germany "expressly rejects" the EU's assessment of atomic energy and has repeatedly stated this position toward the commission.

Germany is now considering its next steps on the issue, he said.

Environmentalists have criticized Germany's emphasis on natural gas, which is less polluting than coal but still produces carbon dioxide—the main greenhouse gas—when it is burned.

He declined to say whether Chancellor Olaf Scholz backs Economy and Climate Minister Robert Habeck's view that the EU Commission's proposals were a form of "greenwashing."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Germany Nuclear Power Plant
Germany is working to shut down its three remaining nuclear plants by the end of the year. Above, workers adjust active nuclear fuel rods, submerged below seven meters of water positioned near the reactor core at the Eon nuclear power plant in Grohnde, Germany. Timothy Fadek//Corbis via Getty Images