Nuclear Power: Effects of Plant Closures on Electricity Markets and Remaining Challenges

  • Friedrich Kunz
  • Felix Reitz
  • Christian von Hirschhausen
  • Ben WealerEmail author


Nuclear power has been a major topic of energy policy debate in Germany since the 1950s, and it was a key issue in all energiewende discussions. The March 2011 closure of seven nuclear power plants (the oldest in Germany) sparked an intense debate over the economic effects this might have, particularly in terms of prices and supply security. This discussion has since been resolved: The plants were closed at a time of high overcapacities on German and European markets, and the economic effects of their closure were almost imperceptible. After 2013, the discussion turned to the other issues of dismantling the old nuclear facilities, storing the radioactive waste, and defining new corporate strategies. These challenges had been largely neglected since the 1960s in Germany (and worldwide) due to the low political priority of these issues and a lack of incentives for nuclear plant operators. This chapter therefore focuses on the two central issues arising with the closure of nuclear power plants in Germany: (1) the effects on German and European electricity markets; and (2) the complex process of decommissioning old plants and finding suitable solutions for storing radioactive waste and adapting corporate strategies to the new challenges. Section 5.2 describes the main steps in closing all of Germany’s nuclear power plants between 2011 and 2022. Section 5.3 discusses the effects of plant closures on German and European electricity markets based on a survey of the literature and our own modeling results on the moratorium. Thanks to significant overcapacities, the effects of both the moratorium (March 2011) and the final plant closures (by 2022 at the latest) have been modest and can be absorbed relatively easily through generation of power from other sources including renewable electricity, both in Germany and some neighboring European countries. Section 5.4 addresses what we consider to be the most important challenges of the final phase of nuclear power—decommissioning and storage—which have not received sufficient attention anywhere in the world. We identify the technical, financial, and institutional challenges of this process that are likely to continue well into the next century and also look at the implications for corporate strategies and diversification. Section 5.5 concludes.


Nuclear power energiewende Moratorium Decommissioning High-level nuclear waste Long-term storage 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Friedrich Kunz
    • 1
  • Felix Reitz
    • 2
  • Christian von Hirschhausen
    • 3
    • 4
  • Ben Wealer
    • 3
    • 4
    Email author
  1. 1.TennetBayreuthGermany
  2. 2.Europe beyond CoalBerlinGermany
  3. 3.TU BerlinBerlinGermany
  4. 4.DIW BerlinBerlinGermany

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