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Germany's nuclear power regions fear for the future

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The Brokdorf nuclear power plant, north of Hamburg has been producing electricity for nearly 35 years.

But that is about to change. On the 31st of December next year it will be taken off the grid and decommissioned.

It is a part of the German government’s plan to close all nuclear power plants by the end of 2022.

Brokdorf is a village of about 1000 people and the plant is a major employer for them.

"Where are our children going to find places to work? That is a problem," says Mayor of Brokdorf, Elke Göttsche.

The village has set aside money to continue to run the local ice hall, a major attraction that was paid for by the nuclear tax money. But of course, eventually, the kitty will run out.

It's a stark contrast to another one of Germany’s large energy projects: the end of coal power. Here the government has pledged 40 billion euros to coal mining regions.

"They have invested several billion for the end of coal power. The government should look at also supporting the end of nuclear power," says Göttsche.

An hour’s drive south of Brokdorf, coal is still powering on.

The Moorburg coal power plant might stay operational until 2038, the date when all coal power plants need to be shut in the country.

Some critics say that it's impossible for a country to phase out both coal and nuclear power at the same time.

But the head of Hamburg NGO BUND, a member of Friends of the Earth that has been campaigning against both, says it is a necessity:

"Neither coal power nor nuclear power has a future. And that’s why we need to transform the energy production in Germany and in Europe," says Manfred Braasch.

The plan is that renewable energy sources like wind and sun will fill the gap when nuclear and coal plants close.

In 2019 the share of net electricity generation from renewable rose to 46 per cent and surpassed fossil fuel for the first time.

But new rules concerning where wind power plants can be built have put the brakes on the expansion, casting doubt on the whole energy transition plan.

Chancellor Angela Merkel decided after the Fukushima disaster in 2011 to set a deadline for the ending of nuclear power.

But, the success of the policy will not be judged in 2022 when the last nuclear power plant closes, but in 2038 when the last coal power is set to close.

If renewable energy has been able to fill the gap by then, but only if that happens, then the policy could be called a success.