German lawmakers have approved a plan to keep the country’s three remaining nuclear power plants until mid-April, extending their life beyond the originally planned shut-off at the end of this year.
The lower house of parliament voted 375-216 to approve the extension, with 70 abstentions. Friday’s vote came after Chancellor Olaf Scholz last month ordered ministers to prepare the plan, putting his foot down on an issue that had divided his three-party government.
The decision comes as Germany tries to prevent a possible energy crunch this winter due to cuts in fuel supplies from Russia over the war in Ukraine.
Economy Minister Robert Habeck and his environmentalist Greens had argued that only two nuclear plants in southern Germany — Isar 2 and Neckarwestheim 2 — should be able to keep operating beyond the scheduled shutdown on Dec. 31 to ease possible power shortages over the winter.
Finance Minister Christian Lindner of the pro-business Free Democrats had suggested all three remaining plants — including the Emsland reactor in the northwest — should stay online, even beyond April if necessary. Some Free Democrats had even called for three other nuclear plants that were shut down last year to be powered up again in the face of high energy prices and possible blackouts.
The plan approved Friday allows all three reactors that are still online to keep running until mid-April, but not beyond that.
Germany’s center-right opposition argues that it isn’t enough and that the reactors should be kept online until the end of 2024.
The deadline to shut Germany’s last nuclear power plants at the end of this year was set in 2011, shortly after the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan.