German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on Wednesday accused Russia of blocking the delivery of a turbine needed to keep gas flowing to Europe via the Nord Stream 1 pipeline.
As the continent’s biggest economy scrambled for energy sources to fill the gap left by Russia’s throttling of supplies, Scholz also opened the door to keeping Germany’s remaining nuclear plants running.
Standing next to the turbine, currently stuck with maker Siemens Energy in Germany, Scholz said the unit was “available and working”.
“There is no reason why this delivery cannot happen,” the chancellor said.
The turbine had received “all the approvals” it needed for export from Germany to Russia, he said.
Pipeline operators only needed to say that “they want to have the turbine and provide the necessary customs information for transport to Russia”, Scholz said, adding that the transfer was “really easy”.
Russian energy giant Gazprom has blamed the delayed return of the unit from Canada, where it was being serviced, for the initial reduction in deliveries of gas via the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline in June.
Officials in Berlin worked with their counterparts in Canada to expedite the return of the turbine but the unit has yet to reach its final destination.
Deliveries via the undersea energy link were reduced to around 20 percent of capacity in late July, after Gazprom halted the operation of one of the last two operating turbines due to the “technical condition of the engine”.
Germany, which is heavily dependent on Russian gas, has branded the decision to limit supplies as a “political” response over the West’s support for Ukraine.
Scholz said Moscow’s move to limit supplies sent a “difficult message” to the world by creating doubt over Russia’s commitment to its agreements.
– Nuclear debate –
Germany has been working to wean itself off Russian energy imports since the invasion of Ukraine in February.
But the reduction of gas supplies has left Europe’s largest economy facing potential shortages over the winter, leading to calls for Germany’s nuclear power plants to be kept online beyond the end of the year.
Scholz said Wednesday that it “can make sense” to keep Germany’s remaining three nuclear plants running, despite the long-planned stop.
“As far as the energy supply in Germany is concerned, the three last nuclear plants are relevant exclusively for electricity production, and only for a small part of it,” Scholz said.
The plants, scattered across the country, account for six percent of Germany’s electricity supply.
The government has said it will await the outcome of a new “stress test” of the national electric grid before determining whether to stick with the phaseout.
Extending the lifetime of the plants has set off a heated debate in Germany, where nuclear energy has long been controversial.
The question has split the governing coalition, with Scholz’s Social democrats and the greens hitherto sceptical, and the FDP favouring an extension.
Germany has already moved to restart mothballed coal power plants to guard against an energy shortfall.
The first of these was already “supplying electricity to the network”, Scholz said Wednesday, adding that Germany had to prepare for a “difficult time”.