The fall of German nuclear power via The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists

By John Mecklin

Although made in the wake of the 2011 disasters at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, Germany’s decision to phase out its nuclear power industry has deep historical roots. After a building permit was issued in 1976, protests of one project—the Brokdorf reactor—eventually grew into numerous civil-war-like standoffs between police and marchers. As police clashed with protesters, the violence escalated, and about a month later, some 30,000 protesters gathered at Brokdorf, presaging a halt in construction ordered in the fall of 1977. When, in 1981, construction was set to restart, 100,000 protesters faced off with more than 10,000 police, including these riot-gear-wielding officers outside the Brokdorf plant which, despite the protests, opened in 1986. (Photo credit: Günter Zint/
Despite hearings that questioned the safety of the Kalkar reactor, the government decided to proceed with the fast breeder in 1982, and the facility was complete by mid-1985. A newly elected state government clearly opposed the project, however, and the Chernobyl accident in April 1986 undermined it. In early 1991, the German federal government announced that the facility would not be put into operation, even though its price tag had grown from an early estimate of $150 to $200 million to about $4 billion. The site is now an amusement park. (Photo credit: Günter Zint/

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