Phasing out of Nuclear Energy – Determining a Date for the Shutdown on the Basis of the Power Plants' Useful Lives Could Prove Costly


In a current study, the Centre for European Economic Research (ZEW) in Mannheim analysed the costs of an early phase-out of nuclear energy in Germany. The study showed that the amount of costs mainly depends on how the government will set the date for the phase-out. For instance, it would be significantly more cost-saving to determine a set date for an ultimate shutdown than setting an equivalent maximum time limitation for the use of the 19 German active nuclear units. For example, if all nuclear plants were to be closed by 2019 at the latest, the adherence to the maximum time limitation would involve costs of DM 26 billion. By contrast, if 2019 was simply determined as a set date for the phase-out, the costs would merely amount to six billion marks (based on the prices of 2000, respectively) since this option allows for older nuclear reactors to remain in operation until they have come to the end of their economic life.

According to expectations, a postponement of the nuclear phase-out goes hand in hand with a reduction in costs. For instance, if the phase-out date was set for 2010, costs would amount to DM 25 billion. If the date for the phase-out was set for 2020, costs would only amount to four billion marks, since at that time many reactors would have already been shut down due to their age. The resulting loss of nuclear power would be compensated for by non-nuclear, predominantly fossil-fuel power stations. Furthermore, electricity prices would also increase as a result, since the demand for electricity is not expected to decrease, which would at least partly absorb the loss of nuclear power. On the contrary, experts rather expect a further increase in power consumption. This tendency could only be countered by a dramatic price increase, which is unlikely to happen at the moment due to the greater price pressures on the liberalised electricity markets. Therefore, non-nuclear forms of energy and electricity imports will have to make up for it. However, it is not sufficient to simply shut down the nuclear power plants. More importantly, a nuclear phase-out needs to be ecologically and economically viable in the long term given the global environmental and resource problems. Thereby, the costs of non-nuclear, especially renewable energy, as well as the demands of climate protection have to be taken into consideration. In order to maintain the credibility of the nuclear phase-out programme, it is furthermore important not to replace German nuclear-generated electricity with nuclear electricity imports.

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Prof. Dr. Christoph Böhringer, Phone: +49(0)621/1235-210, E-mail: