Press Conference by the President, Dr. Otto Majewski

Bonn, 23.05.2000

Ladies and Gentlemen of the press,

I would like to welcome you very warmly. It gives me great pleasure to see that, in this important phase for German nuclear energy, you have made the journey to Bonn and to the 2000 Annual Nuclear Technology Conference. To make one point in advance: I would prefer not to say anything today about the negotiations currently in hand between the Federal Government and the nuclear power plant operators, out of consideration for the mutual agreement of silence that has been made. I will go no further than to refer to the image, often quoted recently, of "light at the end of the tunnel". The matter under negotiation between the Government and the operators is a pragmatic compromise on the safe operation of the existing nuclear power plants, on the question of the disposal of nuclear waste, the implementation of supervision under nuclear energy law, and the further service lives of our installations.

The matter under negotiation is definitely not "Germany`s withdrawal from nuclear energy". We note that the Government`s aim is to make this withdrawal its long-term goal, but we do not intend to help. What is the point? For us as the operators the main point is a political compromise: we are prepared to accept fixed points in time for the end of service life, or fixed quantities of power, if the installations can be protected against "political disturbances" and a stable waste-disposal situation can be guaranteed. Our interest in reaching agreement arises from the sober analysis of the politic majority situation and entrepreneurial reality: the point is to protect the interests of our shareholders, to keep jobs secure for a long time to come, and to strengthen our position in an increasingly tough, competitive market.

The nuclear power plants in Germany strengthen our position in European competition and thus keep thousands of jobs secure. Many people may be hoping for the "withdrawal due to competition" but it is not going to happen. Instead, power generated from nuclear energy in this country in 1999 - the first year of competition in the power industry - rose by about 5%, to almost 170 billion kilowatt-hours. Of the 10 most productive plants in the world last year, 7 are located in Germany alone. That is the reason for which we are striving to reach agreement with the politicians.

The question of the degree to which a possible agreement on energy policy might make any sense must be separated from the necessity for a pragmatic compromise, and this is a question which only the politicians can answer. It is the German Federal Government that bears the responsibility for the consequences of its energy policy for the economy, technology, and climate policy. One of the sad phenomena accompanying all this navel-gazing that has been going on for years in the national discussion on nuclear energy is that we have lost sight of the great international trends. One glance beyond our national borders will show that nuclear energy has prospects for the future. Whilst in this country a service life of 30 or 35 years has become the key question in energy policy, the NRC - the supervisory authority in the USA - has extended the operating licence of the Calvert Cliffs nuclear power plant from 40 to 60 years. About 45 other nuclear power plants have announced similar applications, some of which have already been submitted. New reactors are starting up in numerous countries in the world: France with Civaux 2, India with NPP Blocks 11 and 12, South Korea with a 15th plant, Brazil with the Angra 2 reactor, the Czech Republic with Temelin, and Slovakia with Mochovce. Four new nuclear power plants are being started in India and Japan. Even outside Germany, nuclear energy is proving to be a central asset in power competition; in the USA, reactors that had already been closed down are being reactivated and are starting to generate again. In the last two years, the amount of power generated by nuclear energy has increased by more than 15%. Great Britain has increased the share of nuclear-generated power within its total power generation by seven percentage points in the last ten years, to its present level of 29%.

Incidentally, the competitiveness of nuclear energy does not only apply to installations where the capital cost has already been nearly all written off. The German-French development of the European pressurised-water reactor (EPR) has made it possible to reduce the capital cost of new plant drastically. The EPR is fully competitive, from Day One, against power plants that use fossil fuel. The fact that we have not started any new construction projects in recent years has nothing to do with any voluntary withdrawal from nuclear power by the power industry, whatever the Federal government may choose to think. It is purely attributable to the fact that, as far as we can figure out today, no new generating capacity will be necessary until about 2010 or 2015.

The internationally observable trend in favour of nuclear energy, however, is not only based on its profitability. The growing significance of the climate problem also plays its part here. According to the Protocols of Kyoto, the CO2-reduction target for the European Union is 8%, a figure which has to be reached by the average of the levels from 2008 to 2012. It is equivalent to an annual reduction of about 250 million tons of carbon dioxide. Within the EU, Germany has pledged itself to a reduction of 21%, or about 200 million tons of CO2 a year. Germany will thus have to achieve more than three-quarters of the net reduction in the whole of the EU. At the moment, German nuclear power plants are avoiding something between 100 and 170 million tons of CO2, all according to which substitution method is applied. The Federal Environmental Minister`s thesis that "the withdrawal from nuclear energy is vital for effective climate protection" is thus hard to understand when viewed against this background. This view, by the way, is shared not only by the German operators but also by the EU Energy Commissioner, Ms Loyala de Palacio, who has emphasised that it will not be possible for us to reach the Kyoto climate goals if we try to do without nuclear power. The President of the Commission, Mr Prodi, has drawn specific attention to the exacerbation of the climate protection problem if German really does withdraw from nuclear energy.

To summarise: The German nuclear power operators are realists. We are therefore prepared to reach a pragmatic agreement with the Federal Government on a fair and business-like basis. Our assessment of the Government`s nuclear energy policy in terms of energy policy and of the economy is just as sober, and just as clear. The energy business has stated its position clearly, and we will continue to enunciate it clearly.


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