BERLIN (dpa-AFX) - In a controversial debate in the Bundestag, Economics Minister Robert Habeck, Environment Minister Steffi Lemke (both Greens) and other representatives of the traffic light coalition have defended the decision-making process prior to the nuclear phase-out. Jens Spahn (CDU), deputy leader of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group, made serious accusations on Wednesday.

"You have caused serious damage to our country with this decision to shut down the nuclear power plants during the crisis," said Spahn, addressing the Green ministers in particular. Habeck had promised an open-ended review, but failed to deliver this and acted according to the motto "nuclear phase-out, whatever the cost". Steffen Bilger (CDU), deputy leader of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group, also continues to suspect that the public and parliament may have been deceived. The climate and energy policy spokesperson for the AfD parliamentary group, Karsten Hilse, spoke of "green communists" and said in connection with the nuclear power plant shutdown: "This is sabotage and borders on treason."

The controversy was triggered by a report in the magazine "Cicero", according to which internal concerns about the nuclear phase-out planned for the following year were allegedly suppressed in both the Ministry of Economic Affairs and the Ministry of the Environment in spring 2022 - something both ministries deny. A journalist had fought for the release of the files in court. The documents have since been made available to other media and the Bundestag.

Following the attack on Ukraine by Germany's most important gas supplier Russia in 2022, a debate broke out about the nuclear phase-out planned for the turn of the year. The Greens had long opposed a lifetime extension, but ultimately supported the concept presented by Habeck and the nuclear power plant operators in September 2022 of a temporary operational reserve for two of the last three German nuclear power plants. The FDP was in favor of a longer service life. In October 2022, Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) then put his foot down in favor of the continued operation of all three nuclear power plants until spring.

Habeck defended the nuclear phase-out. All the prophecies of doom had not come true, nuclear power had not been replaced by climate-damaging coal-fired power, instead renewables had been expanded. The reason for the temporarily high energy prices was the dependence on Russian gas, which was then taken away. "This is the legacy of the grand coalition, this is the legacy of the Ministry of Economics of the CDU-led government." He reiterated that the energy policy situation and the assessments of the nuclear power plant operators had changed between spring and autumn 2022.

Judith Skudelny, environmental policy spokesperson for the FDP parliamentary group, emphasized that the decisions prior to the final nuclear phase-out were political. "We were well aware of the factual framework conditions and we weighed them up." The FDP had done this differently to the Greens. Nevertheless, it is important for democracy that "the appearance that the facts have been misrepresented" is dispelled. Overall, the Ministry of the Environment had behaved more transparently than the Ministry of Economic Affairs, which only released documents after the successful lawsuit. She demanded "a little more calm, a little more objectivity" from the CDU/CSU.

Environment Minister Lemke recalled that the safety review of the German nuclear power plants had expired and that the EU Commission had only granted approval for temporary continued operation. The state would have had to assume liability for longer operation. "We could not take this risk," she emphasized. "Fight for your convictions, which you have changed several times on the subject of nuclear power," she demanded of the CDU/CSU. "Fight for your needs. But please do so with an open mind and tell people who should pay for your plans and where the nuclear power plants should go."/hrz/DP/men