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Title:Germany at a crossroads: what a nuclear power station tells us about its energy dilemma
Date:12/9/2022 2:00:17 AM

Neckarwestheim’s nuclear power station was granted a stay of execution amid Russian gas shortage. Some want it to stay while others can’t wait for it to go

On a slope above the river Neckar in south-west Germany, about 25 miles (40km) from Stuttgart, stands the village of Neckarwestheim, its red terracotta roofs surrounded by vineyards and farmers’ fields, with streets leading to a central market square. So far, so typical for a rural community in the German state of Baden-Württemberg. However, this settlement of 4,200 residents has one defining characteristic: it is located right next to one of Germany’s three remaining nuclear power stations.

The challenges facing this picturesque village illustrate how the energy crisis is affecting Europe’s largest economy, as Russia’s weaponisation of the gas supply has complicated Germany’s planned transition away from nuclear.

On a crisp, clear autumn day, clouds of steam rise from the Neckarwestheim nuclear plant’s pressurised water reactor, pale against the hill at whose feet it stands. For those prepared to live with a reactor as a neighbour, its arrival in the mid-70s heralded a golden age. The site’s first reactor stopped producing power in 2011, while the second has been operational since 1989.

“Everyone’s dreams came true,” says Jochen Winkler, the mayor of Neckarwestheim, from his office overlooking the main square of the village, which will celebrate its 900th birthday in 2023.

In more recent times, the village has flourished; its population has doubled over the four decades the power station has been there.

Winkler reels off a list of the amenities enjoyed by residents, from a sports hall and a cultural centre to subsidised childcare and even, once upon a time, “welcome money” paid to the parents of newborns, all thanks to local business taxes collected from the power station. Its owner is EnBW – a majority state-owned and publicly traded energy company, whose name stands...

Organization:Guardian - Energy
Date Added:12/9/2022 6:37:23 AM