Nuclear energy? No thanks!

The German anti-nuclear-energy movement began as a social movement back in the 1970’s. It was directed against civilian consumption of nuclear energy. In comparison to other European countries, the movement has also received both the strongest and most continuous support in Germany. The anti-nuclear-energy movement is strongly connected to the environmentalist movement: Greenpeace, BUND and Robin Hood, for example, categorically reject the use of nuclear energy.

The accident on Three-Mile-Island in 1979 and the catastrophe at Chernobyl in 1986 provided the movement with new fuel. In 2000, the Schroeder-Fischer government began the process of phasing out the use of nuclear energy throughout the country.

While in 2010 the Kohl-government was gearing up for an extension of the run-time of the remaining nuclear plants, the German reaction to the nuclear incident in Fukushima in 2011 forced Chancellor Merkel, an advocate of nuclear energy, to reconsider this decision. Germany now plans to phase out nuclear energy completely by May 30th, 2022.

Fukushima ultimately resulted in an acceleration of the phasing-out of nuclear facilities in Germany. One year after Fukushima Chancellor Merkel defended her decision: “As we have witnessed, risks emerged in a highly developed industrial country, which we never would have considered to be possible. That is what convinced me that we should accelerate the phase-out”.

Meanwhile, Japan continues to invest in the nuclear industry. Great Britain is planning the construction of a new atomic plant. Even in France Fukushima could not slow the success of the nuclear industry. And in the USA, Fukushima also had no significant impact on opinions on nuclear energy held by the President and other politicians.

The German anti-nuclear energy movement and the nation’s response to Fukushima demonstrate the unique understanding that Germans have of risk.