German Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection Steffi Lemke (L) and German Minister of Economics and Climate Protection Robert Habeck seem to be in hot water. EPA-EFE/FILIP SINGER


Top German officials accused of manipulating nuclear phase-out advice

The decision to close down the last working nuclear power plants in Germany was made on manipulated information, Berlin-based Cicero magazine has claimed


The decision to close down the last working nuclear power plants in Germany was made on manipulated information, Berlin-based Cicero magazine has claimed.

Officials from the ministries for economics and environment advised the that continued operation of the atomic facilities should be considered, but “green” activists within the ministries allegedly “played dirty games” to have such advice buried, the magazine claimed on April 25.

Cicero sued for the release of said documents after the ministry led by Economic Affairs and Climate Action minister Robert Habeck tried to stonewall attempts to report on the issue.

When the documents were released on judge’s orders, they turned out to be “extremely explosive”.

Alexander Marguier, Cicero editor-in-chief, said they showed “how the Habeck ministry was tricked and deceived in order to deceive the public but also the responsible minister himself”.

A small group of green activists within the ministry of economy and the environment, led by Habeck and Steffi Lemke, respectively – both of the Green Party – allegedly manipulated and even falsified expert judgement to “deceive” politicians and the public.

This reportedly took place in the spring of 2022 when the Russian invasion of Ukraine made it obvious that energy would become a major issue in Germany.

Berlin saw its Russian gas supplies in peril and feared power shortages and big energy-price hikes.

It appeared to many the nuclear phase-out was dead – but the German Government decided to move ahead with it anyway, closing the final plant in April last year.

Cicero claimed the ministries wanted to push through the nuclear phase-out at any price, even if it went against basic economic needs and scientific facts.

According to the magazine, in one internal memo a scientist stated that the existing nuclear plants could operate safely for years. That was allegedly altered to suggest that extending their operational lives, even by a few months, posed nuclear-safety risks.

Habeck reportedly never saw the original version.

In another internal memo, experts noted that extending the lifetime of the nuclear facilities would reduce electricity prices and stabilise the grid.

It allegedly highlighted that the “low variable costs” associated with operating the remaining three power plants “could lead to lower electricity prices in numerous hours”. Because nuclear power is one of the most cost-effective forms of electricity, the memo added, it often “displaces gas-fired power plants”.

Again, Habeck reportedly did not see the original version. Allegedly, the person who did see it was then-state secretary Patrick Graichen.

Graichen was a key figure with the energy transition lobby organisation Agora Energiewende, pushing for the nuclear phase-out and advocating for a controversial heating law. He was fired from Government after a nepotism scandal in May 2023, one month after the last German nuclear plant was closed.

According to the documents seen by Cicero, Habeck fully trusted Graichen when he worked with him. Graichen is said to have written a question-and-answer text for the ministry’s website advocating against any extension of nuclear-energy plants but it reportedly turned out to be riddled with inaccurate information.

Gerrit Niehaus, Director General on Nuclear Safety and Radiological Protection at BMUV and a vocal opponent of nuclear power, criticised the paper upon review, stating it was “grossly inaccurate, particularly in the introduction”.

Prior to being posted online, the text and an FAQ section underwent extensive revisions, it seems.

In other documents, Niehaus allegedly deleted passages showing expert opinions stating that continued operation of nuclear-power plants would be compatible with nuclear safety. He is accused of making it appear the opposite was said.

The Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action is said to have neglected to acknowledge internally that keeping the nuclear-power plants running would reduce the need to import electricity. Conversely, the closure of nuclear plants led to grid bottlenecks and more power-plant shutdowns.

In an initial reaction to Cicero’s alleged revelations, Habeck said he knew nothing about the expert opinions in his ministry.

The ministry itself rejected the report of possible “deception”. It said the magazine’s presentation was “abbreviated and without context” and accordingly the conclusions drawn from it were “not accurate”.

“This review was always open-ended and transparent,” it stated.

“Considerations and decisions were based on the information available at the time and in view of the real situation, which only changed and came to a head over the course of the months,” the ministry added.

Gerald Ullrich, chairman of Germany’s liberal FDP party, claimed the files showed “That we citizens and we coalition partners have not learned the whole truth about the nuclear power phase-out,” calling it “a breach of trust” that should carry “consequences”.

Michael Kruse, energy-policy spokesman for the FDP, said he was “disappointed in Robert Habeck”, claiming citizens had “been deprived of the truth”.

“A minister who, in a historic energy crisis, decides not for the good of the country, but for party ideology, does not need to act as a victim,” Kruse added.

The Christian Democrats of the CDU/CSU said a parliamentary committee of inquiry might be required to get to the bottom of things.

The CDU/CSU said it believed the nuclear power-plant shutdowns were a mistake and criticised the proposals at the time, despite the closures being initiated by the then-CDU leader, former chancellor Angela Merkel.

The parliamentary secretary of the CDU/CSU parliamentary group, Thorsten Frei, stated on X: “The old suspicion is confirmed: Parliament and the population were lied to when nuclear power was phased out.”

He demanded the immediate disclosure of all material regarding the circumstances of the decision to phase out nuclear power.

The Bavarian Minister of Economic Affairs Hubert Aiwanger said: “It is obvious that green energy policy pursues ideology without regard to losses.

“The Greens are harming Germany.”

The Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party claimed the disclosed files proved “that Green Party puppet-masters in the ministries deceived the public and ignored professional expertise”.

Energy expert Veronika Grimm, a member of the German Government’s Council of Economic Experts, said in an interview with FOCUS online news outlet she was shocked by the apparent revelations.

“If the … experts in the Ministry of Economic Affairs really did not get through to Robert Habeck, then that would be very worrying,” she said.

“He doesn’t have to make decisions based on economic criteria alone but how is he supposed to weigh up if important information doesn’t reach him at all?”