Originally published 9th May, 2011
As Germany attempts to abandon nuclear power, one small town has successfully overcome industry intimidation and begun its own post-nuclear age
Merkel abandoned plans to prolong the lifetime of 17 nuclear power plants in the face of wide protests
Earlier this year German chancellor Angela Merkel announced plans to phase out nuclear power and placed a moratorium on nuclear power which has closed all pre-1980’s plants until early June.
Germany’s plans to exit nuclear power follow widespread protests by anti-nuclear campaigners and growing fears over radiation leaks at the Fukushima power station. A switch from nuclear to renewable energy represents a complete reversal by the German government, who last year had announced their intentions to extend the life of 17 nuclear plants for an average of 12 years.
Despite Merkel’s U-turn, which many saw as political opportunism, the anti-nuclear Green Party continue to gain electoral support and won a recent local election in the country’s south-west. Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union lost control of Baden-Wuerttemberg state for the first time in 58 years, demonstrating the increasing opposition to nuclear power in Germany.
While the German government bows to growing concern among voters, one town in the picturesque Black Forest region has already moved into a post nuclear age in a revolutionary story of ‘civic uprising’ against energy monopolies.
An energy company, owned and managed by local townspeople, have been supplying the town of Schönau, in South Germany, with nuclear-free energy for more than 20 years.
Following the 1986 explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine and amid concerns of nuclear fallout across Europe, the citizens of Schönau decided to take matters into their own hands. Later that year, Parents for a Nuclear Free Future (PNFF), led by Ursula Sladek, who recently won the Goldman Environmental Prize, was established to campaign for renewable sources of energy, free from the dangers of radiation.
Ursula Sladek led a group of citizens to reclaim their power grid
‘[After Chernobyl ] we thought now is the time when things are going to change. But the government and energy suppliers didn’t want any changes, so we realised it was going to be our job to do this. We had to do something now.’ Sladek told the Ecologist.