Germany's plans to take its final three nuclear power plants off the grid was celebrated by environmental activists and politicians, while pro-business and conservative lawmakers criticized the move, reported dpa.
In Berlin, environmentalists gathered at the Brandenburg Gate to celebrate the planned shutdown of the reactors by midnight, while supporters of nuclear power also gathered there.
The three remaining nuclear reactors in Germany — Isar 2 in Bavaria, Emsland in Lower Saxony, and Neckarwestheim 2 in Baden-Württemberg — are expected to be shut down on Saturday, just before midnight.
The move ends the country's use of nuclear energy — and the accompanying politically charged debate — after more than 60 years.
Two of the three plants were due to be shut down at the end of last year, but due to Russia's invasion of Ukraine and an ensuing energy crisis the government decided to keep them running throughout the winter.
Greenpeace celebrated the end of nuclear power usage in Germany as a "good day" for climate protection and a "huge success for the anti-nuclear movement of 40 years."
German Environment Minister Steffi Lemke of the Green Party told dpa that the nuclear phase-out would make Germany safer. "The risks of nuclear power are ultimately uncontrollable in the event of an accident," she said.
Green Party leader Ricarda Lang tweeted on Saturday that the nuclear phase-out meant the "final entry into the age of renewable energies."
The parliamentary group of the Social Democratic Party tweeted (SPD): "Nuclear power? And Bye." This was accompanied by a picture of a collapsing nuclear power plant cooling tower.
The pro-business Free Democratic Party (FDP) parliamentary group, on the other hand, made clear on Twitter that is it not happy with the exit. The FDP is junior partner in Chancellor Olaf Scholz' current government coalition, which also includes the Greens.
"We make no secret of the fact that in terms of the nuclear phase-out we would have liked to see an extension of a limited period of 1 year," the FDP tweeted.
FDP Secretary General Bijan Djir-Sarai demanded that nuclear energy technology not be completely abandoned.
"Nuclear energy must have a future in Germany even after the phase-out," he told dpa in Berlin. "This includes expanding research in the field of nuclear fusion and taking advantage of the opportunities offered by new and safer nuclear fission technologies."
The FDP repeated that it wanted to keep the last three nuclear reactors operational after the shut down, so they could be reactivated as quickly as possible in an emergency.
Conservative opposition politicians were also disappointed. Christian Democratic Union (CDU) chief Friederich Merz called the shutdown a "black day for Germany" — a view echoed by the CDU's Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU).
The CSU parliamentary group spoke of a "black day for citizens, industry and climate protection in Germany" as a result of the nuclear power plant shutdown.
Bavaria's CSU Prime Minister Markus Söder said in an interview on public broadcaster ARD's "Tagesthemen" on Friday evening that he believes in a new edition of nuclear energy.
"We feel this great energy crisis, we need every shred of energy."
Hesse's CDU Prime Minister Boris Rhein called for more research into new technologies. "The Ukraine war and the energy crisis show us that we have to position ourselves broadly. Especially in view of the nuclear phase-out, we must promote research that is open to new technologies. Don't just get out, but also get in," he told the newspaper the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
For the employees of the Isar 2 pile, the shutdown is an emotional moment, according to the chairman of the PreussenElektra group, Guido Knott.
"Today, after 50 years, electricity production from nuclear energy ends at PreussenElektra. This is very close to all of us, and it also affects me personally," he said.
The group had announced that all employees would receive fixed employment contracts until 2029. After that, the number of employees will be reduced. Around 450 people work at the Essenbach site, about 83 kilometres north-east of Munich.