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Dutch Ask If German Nuclear Plants May Stay Open Amid Gas Crisis

·2 min read

(Bloomberg) -- The Netherlands has asked Germany to consider keeping its nuclear power plants open, but admitted the chances of that happening are slim.

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Rob Jetten, the Dutch Minister for Climate and Energy Policy, made the inquiry to German Economy Minister Robert Habeck as Europe faces its worst energy crisis in decades. Power prices have soared after Russia reduced natural gas supplies to many countries in retaliation for sanctions triggered by its invasion of Ukraine.

European states are rushing to reduce their dependence on Moscow’s energy, and the Netherlands plans to stop importing Russian gas this year.

“I just asked them if it’s technically possible to keep the nuclear power plants open,” Jetten said in an interview on Wednesday in The Hague, referring to his meeting with Habeck. “They’ve already taken so many measures to shut them down and there’s probably not enough fuel to keep them open a bit longer.”

Germany has all but ruled out prolonging its last nuclear plants, citing technical risks.

The Netherlands could extract an extra 50 billion cubic meters of gas each year from its Groningen field. Yet Dutch authorities -- wary of earthquakes triggered by drilling, which have damaged cities -- have repeatedly said they plan to wind down production and will only increase output as a last resort. It is “crystal clear,” State Secretary for Mining Hans Vijlbrief said, that nuclear plants are a safer option than getting more gas from Groningen.

Still, the government may decide to produce more from it if all Russian gas is cut and households face a supply risk, said Vijlbrief, who’s responsible for Groningen.

Dutch officials have removed limits on coal-fired power plants to improve energy security, joining other European countries in turning to the heavily-polluting fossil fuel. Germany, France and Belgium could also delay maintenance on some of their power plants until next year or 2024, Jetten said.

Better Relations

“Everyone can do a lot before we get into the Groningen question,” he said.

The energy crisis has helped improve Dutch-German relations, Jetten said. He cited better cooperation over hydrogen, gas and wind plants in the North Sea, the borders of which the two countries have long disagreed over.

“For years it’s been impossible to get along and fix, but now everything is going smoothly,” he said.

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