WORLD: Mr. Meyer, are you still a staunch opponent of nuclear power? Or do you at least have doubts about the timing of the exit in view of the current crisis?
Christian Meyer: No, I am completely convinced of the nuclear phase-out. That applies even more when I hear the news from Zaporizhia. As Environment and Energy Minister, I receive daily reports on the state of the nuclear facilities in Ukraine, including the weather conditions and wind directions in Western Europe.
If something happens in Zaporizhia, it means a second Chernobyl. With all the consequences for people and the environment, especially in Ukraine. Therefore, the future belongs to safe and clean renewable energies.
WORLD: Nevertheless, as Minister of Energy, you will now have to give the green light again for the continued operation of the Emsland nuclear power plant. Or will your ministry, as the responsible supervisory and approval authority, still find a way of not having to implement the Chancellor's decision after all?
Meyer: We will stick to the resolutions of the Federal Government and the Bundestag, even if we do not consider them technically necessary in Lower Saxony given the massive expansion of renewable energies. The fuel elements are to be reconnected again at the end of January. For this purpose, the system is switched off.
Then we will check the reactor to ensure the highest level of safety. It will only be switched on again if all the specifications that apply to such a check have been met.
The Emsland nuclear power plant has to be temporarily taken off the grid in winter. This resulted in a request from the Union to the Ministry of Economic Affairs. It must be reconfigured. After that, the output of the power plant would initially be significantly lower.
WORLD: If one of the tests is negative, is that it with the extension?
Meyer: That is an examination according to law and order. And that's exactly what we're going to do.
WORLD: How important is the Emsland nuclear power plant for power supply and grid stability?
Meyer: From the grid operator's point of view, we don't need the Emsland nuclear power plant here in the north. In the past, we have often had the situation where the systems in Lingen and Grohnde were off the grid at the same time. There weren't any problems. Incidentally, you can already see from the point in time that RWE planned for the repositioning of the fuel elements and thus the shutdown of the nuclear power plant that the plant is not systemically relevant.
The fact that it should be shut down at the end of January of all times - according to everyone, the most sensitive time for a possible overload of the grids - and not now, proves that the Emsland nuclear power plant is no longer considered to make a significant contribution to grid stability.
WORLD: Don't you share the concern of many people that there might not be enough energy available in winter due to the unstable supply situation?
Meyer: Of course we take people's fears seriously. Which is why we are putting the first LNG terminal in Lower Saxony into operation before Christmas, which is not only a source of joy. That helps a lot with the gas supply.
Thanks to the expansion of renewables, we in the north will not have a power shortage either. There is no risk of blackout. Both the operators of the power plants and the operators of the grids assure us of this.
WORLD: The federal government wants to install almost a dozen LNG terminals, including at least five systems in Lower Saxony. From your point of view, a sensible, albeit very expensive, investment?
Meyer: Here in Lower Saxony, we have clearly stipulated in our coalition agreement that there must be no overcapacity in the LNG sector. Utilization must be geared towards climate targets – i.e. only for a short transitional period – and allow fewer and fewer fossil imports.
That is why the two swimming terminals in Wilhelmshaven have a limited charter period of five and ten years respectively. And the two fixed terminals in Wilhelmshaven and Stade will be designed in such a way that we can convert them to green hydrogen as soon as possible.
WORLD: The nature conservation associations are still outraged by the forthcoming rapid approval of the swimming terminals. Among other things, they criticize the planned maintenance of the plant using biocides. Is that also an issue for you?
Meyer: There will be no environmental discount. We will review all objections before granting approval. However, various expert opinions show that all limit values are complied with at the swimming terminal in Wilhelmshaven. Nevertheless, we will also ensure that the operation of the facility does not lead to any deterioration in the environmental situation by means of water ecological monitoring.
WORLD: A second lever that Lower Saxony has in hand to alleviate the energy crisis are gas deposits that have not yet been exploited. The previous black and red government in Lower Saxony has at least approved the exploration of gas fields off Borkum. Federal Environment Minister Steffi Lemke (Greens) is urging the project to be stopped. They also?
Meyer: In the coalition in Lower Saxony, we have agreed on clear climate targets that the use and promotion of fossil fuels must also be based on. Only the federal government can regulate that. We expressly demand that the federal government modernize the relevant federal mining law so that climate protection plays a greater role there and we can phase out oil and gas production. For the site in front of Borkum, however, the approval procedures according to mining law are already underway.
Lower Saxony's new government will give priority to the protection of the Wadden Sea, the island of Borkum and all nature and environmental protection issues in the environmental impact assessment. I therefore very much welcome the statements made by the Federal Environment Minister against gas production on the fringes of the World Natural Heritage.
WORLD: Germany could really use the North Sea gas, right?
Meyer: From our point of view, this gas is not needed and contradicts the climate targets. We should better ignite the turbo in the expansion of renewables. Incidentally, the gas off Borkum will not help us in the next two winters anyway, because production could start in two and a half years at the earliest. The amount of gas that can be extracted there is also rather small.
We would rather install more offshore wind turbines in the North Sea. That would help us a lot more, also in meeting the climate targets.
WORLD: You probably don't have to be asked about fracking.
Meyer: Our Prime Minister Stephan Weil already gave the right answer to Mr. Söder - "is it still possible"?
WORLD: But that's a bit bigoted, isn't it? To transport fracked gas here from the USA at great expense, but not to use their own resources.
Meyer: It is also bigoted to suddenly criticize the procurement of fracking gas from abroad. When the gas came from Russia, where fracking was also going on on a large scale and environmental standards are abysmal, nobody talked about it. Nothing would get any better just because we frack the gas at our premises.
On the contrary: That would mean enormous dangers for our groundwater. Incidentally, the same applies here that we do not want to prolong the era of fossil fuels. The sooner we can do without oil and gas, the better for the climate.
WORLD: Do you find it acceptable if climate protectors stick to the streets?
Meyer: I think peaceful protests like the ones organized by Fridays for Future in recent years are good and legitimate. This also includes a sit-in, for example at events. I may have done that before.
It is not okay if protests create danger for others or destroy works of art. That doesn't work at all - and it doesn't serve the purpose either.
"Kick-off Politics" is WELT's daily news podcast. The most important topic analyzed by WELT editors and the dates of the day. Subscribe to the podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music or directly via RSS feed.