Lawmakers in the German Bundestag (parliament) have voted to keep Germany's three remaining NPPs in operation until April 2023. Under Germany’s nuclear phase-out plan they were all due to close by the end of 2022, but in October Chancellor Olaf Scholz ordered their extension in the face of energy shortages resulting from sanctions on Russian gas supplies. The three plants are Isar 2 in the southern state of Bavaria, Emsland in northwestern Germany, and Neckarwestheim 2 in the southwestern Baden-Württemberg state. The operators of the plants are E.ON (Isar 2), RWE (Emsland) and EnBW (Neckarwestheim 2), which, with a total capacity of 4.2GWe, currently account for 6% of Germany's power generation.

Parliament voted to change Germany's Atomic Energy Law, which is the legal framework necessary to enable the extension. The revisions stipulate that there will be no new extension beyond April. Environment Minister Steffi Lemke told broadcaster RTL that the law "clearly states that the shutdown will take place on 15 April”.

According to German broadcaster ZDF, the draft law stipulated that "the safety of the [nuclear] systems is continuously ensured at a high level by comprehensive state supervision”. However, an extensive periodic safety review, usually carried out every 10 years, will not take place at the three plants due to "the extremely short period of continued operation”, according to the draft law.

The extension sparked an intense debate within Germany's coalition government and Scholz's decision was seen as a compromise between the demands of his coalition partners – the Greens, who have long opposed nuclear energy and the business-friendly FDP that wants to keep the reactors operating until 2024.

Image: RWE's Emsland nuclear power plant (courtesy of Martin Meissner/AP Photo/picture alliance)