The new conservative-liberal government in Germany so far has been hesitant to go full speed in their support for nuclear energy. So far they still stick to the nuclear phase out and pretend to be tough towards the energy utilities, which want to operate their nuclear power plants longer.
Urgewald - This hesitant behaviour is due to the elections taking place in the federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia in May where the same coalition of Christian Democrats and Liberals ruling the country has been working in a coalition over the past years and fears for its majority.
However, there are areas where the pro-nuclear take of the government becomes crystal clear. On Wednesday, 27 January, the budget committee of the parliament was informed about a huge guarantee for Areva NP (34% Siemens) for the Brazilian nuclear power plant Angra 3. This was the last step in getting rid of the exclusion criterion for guarantees for nuclear exports, which had been in place since 2001. It prevented export credit guarantees to be granted to Areva/Siemens for Olkiluoto 3 and an earlier attempt for Angra 3.
Yet the coalition treaty mentioned that the government wanted to get rid of the Hermes guidelines containing the exclusion criterion. Shortly after the elections Areva/Siemens handed in an application for guarantees over 2,5 billion Euro (US$ 3.5 billion) for Angra 3.
Although Siemens is in the process of ending its 34 % stake in Areva NP German law makers nor the majority of parliamentarians seem to be aware of the possibility of ending up financing a French state-company.
As the contracts for Angra 2 (ready built) and Angra 3 were set up in the 70's and plans were made at that time, Angra 3 is old technology before the building even starts, the plant being a second generation design. Further problems are that the plans for storage of radioactive waste are poor, provisional and not very advanced, that the Brazilian nuclear regulator is not an independent body, but has direct commercial interests in the Angra 3 project: the group providing the fuel to power Angra’s reactors is part of the regulatory body, according to Greenpeace in its "Financing Brazilian nuclear programme: a risky investment“ (November 2009). The emergency management has been strongly criticised and the environmental minister gave the license only with over 40 additional requirements, experts doubt whether the energy utility Electronuclear will be able to fulfil these requirements. One might wonder, too, whether it is the wisest decision to build a nuclear power plant in the only earthquake prone area in Brazil.
Despite parliamentarians brought up these critical questions in the budget committee discussion, the ruling majority accepted the assurance of the economics ministry that all was fine and in order and nothing to worry about with the project. This means back to square one on the German nuclear export promotion and if Angra goes through smoothly one can only wonder what else will follow.