Germany’s shift away from nuclear after Fukushima was a result of decades of grassroots struggle, and the battle is not over yet: Kerstin Rudek

Kerstin Rudek

Kerstin Rudek is an activist, campaigner, presenter, speaker, writer and networker. Born and living at the Free Republic of Wendland, Northern Germany, Kerstin is a doting mother and gritty anti-nuclear, human rights and environmental activist. She has played a pivotal role in the international ‘Don’t Nuke The Climate‘ campaign in recent years, exposing the nuclear lobbies’ claims of being a ‘solution’ to climate change.

She has been associated for decades with the Bürgerinitiative Umweltschutz Lüchow-Dannenberg, the oldest citizens’ initiative in Germany that opposes the transport and storage of radioactive waste in Wendland and nuclear transports to the waste storage in Gorleben.

This interview is part of the 7 interviews conducted by on 7 years of the accident. What did the Fukushima accident in 2011 mean to you in Germany? How did the German citizens, politicians and the government respond?

Kerstin Rudek: In 2000, we had a parliamentary decision for nuclear phase out in Germany, the so called atomic consensus. In a complex agreement the government and nuclear industry made up terms for phasing out all nuclear power plants about 2021. The reason for this was the nuclear catastrophe of Chernobyl and the atomic consensus was only possible because of a strong and long lasting anti nuclear movement in Germany. Without this movement, that started in early 1970‘s and became a social movement, including all ages and different people of all social strata, the atomic consensus would never ever have been decided. For us as anti nuclear movement the agreements of the contract were not at all sufficient, but it was a first step. Since 2010 the political reality had changed. Former social democrats and green party government was swapped by conservative parties of Christian-Democrats and so called liberals. End of October 2010 the government decided a lifetime extension for German nuclear power plants until 2036. Directly after the nuclear catastrophe of Fukushima– on 15th March 2011 – Chancellor Merkel ordered the shutdown of the oldest 7 nuclear power plants in a moratorium, declaring a “national regulation because of safety reasons.”

In the weeks following the nuclear catastrophe of Fukushima, the anti nuclear movement was organising manifestations with more than 250.000 people all together in different places. The demand was clear: phase out of all German nuclear power plants and a total phase out of nuclear industry like uranium enrichment and uranium fuel production.

These big, strong and resolute manifestations were very important and influenced the following proceedings and decisions towards a nuclear phase out.

In former years, part of the anti nuclear movement had retired and hoped they would not need to continue their demonstration for a nuclear free future. The topic by many people had been transfered to the politics and government. After Fukushima disaster the movement was back to the streets. Germany was among the first countries to announce nuclear restriction after the Fukushima accident. How serious is the government to realise the promise?

Kerstin Rudek: We had a nuclear phase out law in 2016, canceled in 2017. Now we have a nuclear phase out law, expecting all nuclear power plants to be shut down until 2021. At present 7 nuclear power plants are operated in Germany. On 4th March 2018 the Social Democrats Party’s delegates voted pro big coalition of government with Christ Democrats. This means for the coming 4 years the nuclear phase out in Germany is stable. Regarding the next elections, nothings is sure. The nuclear lobby, i would even say the international nuclear mafia, is pushing politicians a lot to realise their plans of building so called next generation reactors, that are proposed to have no accidents, don‘t evaporate radiation and do not produce radioactive poisoning waste – what a big lie!

On my opinion we should be very aware of the ongoing pressure on politics and decision makers. We should also uncover the propaganda of nuclear interceders. And we should be ready to stand up for our right of physical integrity. Not only for us, but for the coming 40.000 generations.

The nuclear industry will never give up their huge profits without a struggle. But these profits are made of human suffering.

One more topic is defending the energy transition. We have some famous pioneers, like Claudia Kemfert, who have convincing arguments about how smart and peaceful renewable energies are. There have been questions about the German Energiewende, in particularly about its viability. Does the move away from nuclear entail heavy subsidies and carbon emissions, as claimed?

Nuclear power has never been profitable without big amount of subsidies. The same story ocurrs to coal. Greenpeace energy in 2017 published a study proving renewable energies as the cheapest among all energy sources.

Between 1950 and 2016 nuclear energy has been subsidized with 304 billion Euros.

In 2008 every single workplace in the stone coal industry was subsidized with more than 233.000 Euro. Stone coal is the most subsidized enery carrier, followed by nuclear energy. State promotion of nuclear energy, stone coal and lignite between 1970 and 2014 added up to 422 Billion Euro.

Nuclear energy is a high risk technology, too dangerous, too dirty, too expensive, too slow and rooted in human rights violations and environmental racism. Coal also is a super dirty and unjust energy production. People are expelled, no matter, if they live in Columbia, Russia, South Africa or North Rhine- Westphalia.

Germany is the lignite world champion. The German governments decision to stick on this climate- damaging energy source is solely a political decision. Coal burning power plants are plugging the national grid for renewable energies. It is not smart to get rid of one poisoning energy (nuclear) and replace it with another one (coal). The only acceptable solution is to phase out both, nuclear and coal and use 100% renewable energies.

The possibilities of 100% renewable energies supply are ready – to use them a political decision has to be announced.

In the name of climate justice we have to defend the energy transition. What is the future of Energiewende, and how do you think Germany can play bigger role in energy transformation internationally?

Energy transition has become a big economic factor. Against baseless pretences 330.000 jobs in renewable energies were created in 2015 (2012 highest amount of 400.000).

There is no option following the old path of nuclear and coal and at the same time changing the energy system to renewables. It simply does not work. A change has to be done with a firm conviction. The funds have to be spent in science, efficiency, development and production of smart new systems, supporting renewable energies. Energy storages are one of the topics that are urgent to improve.

Of course we need to think global, but we should act more local. Decentralised energy supply is one of the keys to provide sufficient energy wherever it is needed. Away from big corporations, towards municipalities, cooperatives, villages, districts that organise themselves and work non profit. The workplaces are built in the region, the purchasing power stays in the region.

The Free Republic of Wendland is a model region for renewable energies and draws 100% electricity from renewable energies since 2010. This was not started by politics, but by some alternative tinkerers who had visions. What we need is to encourage each other, worldwide, that there are solutions and live our utopia.And of course struggle for a political system, that is serving the people and not the capitalistic companies.

The German government has to phase out coal immediately. A nuclear phase out is possible without waiting until 2021. And it has to include uranium enrichment and fuel production at Lingen and Gronau. With a clear commitment to renewable energies Germany could be a trendsetter, successful in getting rid of the problems of fossil fuels and instead encouraging other countries societies and governments to also switch. Germany still exports nuclear technology to other countries. How does the civil society respond to that?

Many information about the export of nuclear technology are not public. There is a minority that is committed to not exporting nuclear technology. Many people do not regard, they are part of a system, that is operating worldwide. Our relative prosperity in Germany is also based on the export of weapons and nuclear technology. In order to expose the nuclear crimes of the atomic mob, international nuclear deals should be much more researched and combated.

The German government still is granting with Hermes sureties for international nuclear technical deals of German companies. Without these financial guaranties these nuclear plants would not ne built. We demand the immediate termination of these guarantees for nuclear projects. Nuclear waste has been a major issue in Germany, particularly in Wendland. How do we respond to this problem?

We do not have a clue, where to put and how to store nuclear waste – not only in Germany and not only in Wendland, but worldwide. What would you do, if the bathtub is full? I would rather turn off the water tap. The problem has been known for decades, but there is no meaningful reaction. Every frieshouse needs a disposal permit for the fat, otherwise it must close. But the nuclear power plants keep on running, producing more and more high radioactive waste. The first step is the immediate decommissioning of all nuclear plants worldwide.

Another important step is the admission that there will be no safe nuclear waste storage. Nevertheless, civil society must work to ensure that nuclear waste is stored as safely as possible and not as cheaply as possible.

My big wish is to convince other people not to make the same mistakes humanity has already made with nuclear power. It does not take a detour via nuclear power to then end up in renewable energy. We can directly meet the world’s energy needs with renewable energy, without leaving even more mountains of highly toxic nuclear waste.

Nobody wants to live next to the nuclear industry radioactive waste. The only way to avoid it, is to stop nuclear energy.




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