- Germany was set to phase out nuclear energy by end-2022 but will now keep two plants as backups.
- The two nuclear plants would come online only when necessary, the German government said.
- Germany faces a potential energy shortage as Russia has slowed natural-gas flows to the country.
Germany will keep two nuclear power stations open and on standby in case of an energy crisis — marking a U-turn in its plan to phase out the fuel source by the end of 2022.
The two plants — located in the southwestern state of Baden Württemberg and the southeastern state of Bavaria — were to be shut by the end of this year but will now stay open until mid-April 2023.
German Economy Minister Robert Habeck said in a Monday statement that the country has a "very high supply security" for electricity, but noted that "this year is a special year across Europe."
"The Russian attack on Ukraine has created a tense situation in the energy markets and we are doing everything we can to avoid a gas shortage," Habeck added.
Germany is reliant on piped natural gas from Russia, which accounts for 35% of the country's imports of the fuel. However, it now faces a potential energy shortage in winter as Russia has shut down natural-gas flows via a critical pipeline that delivers natural gas to Germany and beyond.
"It remains very unlikely there will be crisis situations and extreme scenarios," Habeck said. "But as Minister responsible for security of supply, I do everything that is necessary to fully guarantee security of supply."
Habeck added that Germany is still committed to phasing out nuclear energy, and the two plants would be activated only when necessary.
The move to keep the nuclear plants open is a big deal as Germany has been phasing out nuclear energy since Japan's Fukushima nuclear disaster in March 2011. It's a highly contentious issue in Germany, where the anti-nuclear movement dates back to the 1970s.
However, amid the country's unprecedented energy crisis, even its Green Party — born of the anti-nuclear movement — has softened its stance on switching off all of Germany's nuclear reactors this year. Habeck belongs to the Green Party.
"We have to prepare for the worst," Habeck told a news briefing, Reuters reported on Monday. "The plants will only reopen when more power is needed."