The 56th Energy Dialogue at the Reichstag concentrated on Germany’s nuclear legacy. The panel discussion was held at the invitation of Prof. Dr. Friedbert Pflüger, Janusz Reiter and Central European Energy Partners (CEEP) on the 30th of January.
Ms. Ursula Heinen-Esser, Chair of the Commission of the German Parliament on the Storage of Highly Radioactive Waste Materials, gave an overview of the inner workings and methodology of the structure she heads. Admitting that the process of finding final storage places for nuclear waste is slow, Ms. Esser declared that the Commission tries to conduct it on the strong footing of consensus, when it fulfils its three main institutional responsibilities: establishing the technical criteria for the repository, organising the process and evaluating the existing laws, as well as determining the requirements for information and participation of the population.
Dr. Ralf Güldner, President of the German Nuclear Forum and Chief Executive Officer of E.ON Nuclear Power, emphasised that the lifespan of a nuclear power plant is currently longer than a human one – which makes the nuclear issue in Germany one with recurring complexities due to the generational factor. Both the introduction of nuclear power to Germany and the phase-out were based on societal consensus. According to Dr. Güldner, German society needs to reach a third consensus – one regarding the best possible way to store nuclear waste – by setting firm standards and respecting them.
Mr. Stefan Wenzel, Minister of Lower Saxony for the Environment, Energy and Climate Protection, underlined the importance of such a debate, particularly now, as - despite the introduction of nuclear energy to Germany more than 50 years ago, followed by the firm decision to phase it out - the country still does not have a permanent solution for the safe storage of highly radioactive nuclear waste. According to Mr. Wenzel, what Germany needs right now are decisions capable of enduring several generations. Public relations work aimed at building trust and strengthening the backing from the general population, as well as long-lasting and stable institutions, independent of individuals, is a must.