The pro-nuclear power advocates gathered this afternoon agree with other climate activists on at least one thing: the common enemy, he sits in the Federal Ministry for the Environment. The “Coal Ministry” is what the 30 or so demonstrators protesting against the federal government’s energy policy in the center of Berlin on Tuesday call it – in reference to the unscheduled continued operation of coal-fired power plants as a result of the energy crisis.

And otherwise the demonstrators only differ from other environmental activists at second glance. Their banners warning of the climate crisis contain statements such as “Unite Behind The Science”, accompanied by sunflowers. But that was it with the similarities.

Instead of renewable energies, which the majority of the climate movement believe should lead Germany into a better future, the supporters of the Nuclearia association, which called for the protest, see the solution in the continued operation of nuclear power plants. In modern, clean reactors that promise a just climate transformation without sacrifice. They see themselves strengthened by the energy crisis, which has revealed the problems of the sluggish energy transition. Many are now even harboring the faint hope that their dreams of phasing out nuclear energy could still come true.

In their idealism, they are supported in their demonstration by one of the most prominent figures in the movement. Michael Shellenberger, one of the figureheads of the international pro-nuclear movement, has come to the protest.

As the activist joins the protest, one protester beams and says, “I know you from Twitter, you’re famous!” With his shirt sleeves rolled up, Shellenberger delivers a dynamic speech. It has the casualness that Americans are used to. Charming and supple, with the right mix of compliments to his “German friends” and encouragement like a motivational coach, he encourages his colleagues in their goals.

Shellenberger is a famous but also controversial climate activist in the USA. He used to protest to save the rainforest, but today he defends nuclear power and is a driving force behind the debate. He accuses climate activists of end-of-the-world rhetoric, which in turn vilify him for his commitment to nuclear power.

In the meantime, he is experiencing more understanding, says the best-selling author in a conversation before the demonstration. He is currently traveling through Europe for his new book. The working title: “The war on nuclear power. And why it harms us all.” Shellenberger sees a new era dawning for nuclear power. He has just asked a young woman on the Spree in Berlin about the subject, he says. She told him that she became an advocate of nuclear power during the energy crisis.

Nevertheless: Germany is still the problem child. While nuclear power is popular in France, for example, and is increasingly coming into focus in the Netherlands, the trend reversal is particularly difficult here. In the German population, the resistance to nuclear power is particularly high. Almost religious. “Nuclear power symbolizes the devil in the German climate change debate,” says Shellenberger.

There have long been solutions to controversial questions such as the final storage of nuclear waste or the delivery of fuel rods. The fact that no progress is being made here is due to the fact that Economics Minister Robert Habeck (Greens) is deliberately misleading the population. Shellenberger suspected ideological reasons behind this, among other things. The climate activist believes that the determination that characterizes Germany has also become one of the biggest problems. Namely, when it becomes an immovable dogma.

Two young men at the demo also explain that supporters of nuclear power in Germany do not represent a majority opinion. “Years ago, I promoted nuclear power plants at Fridays for Future demos,” says 23-year-old Philipp Eckert, whose t-shirt has a “Nuclear Power – Yes Please” emblem emblazoned on it and who wears yellow sunflower glasses. “My sign was taken from me pretty quickly by the other demonstrators.”

He believes in nuclear power because he stands for progress and more realism when it comes to climate change. “And maybe you can also make a profit out of it privately,” he adds. His parents run the Eckert

There are a lot of company representatives walking around here. Ulrike von Waitz is also the wife of an entrepreneur from Bavaria. She sees nuclear power as a real solution for climate protection, she emphasizes this again and again. “Nuclear power is a clean technology and therefore an important component in the fight against climate change,” says the 53-year-old. Just two weeks ago she was in front of the EU Parliament in Strasbourg to protest for the classification of nuclear power as a sustainable raw material. The fact that she was viewed as an opponent by other climate activists there seems to sadden her seriously.

“The nuclear power debate in Germany is very ideological,” agrees von Waitz. “Many people in this country have been shaped by the reactor accidents in Chernobyl and Fukushima. They have a vague fear of nuclear energy.”

As if in confirmation, cyclists drive past the demo and burst out laughing. Other passers-by acknowledge the protest action by shaking their heads in disbelief. According to Waitz, this is also a social question. When, for example, the climate activist Luisa Neubauer says that electricity has to become more expensive, her understanding stops. “That can only be demanded by those who understand nothing about fears of decline,” says the 53-year-old and sees this as one of many double standards on the part of many climate activists who can be located in the left and green spectrum.

A point of view shared by many at the demo. “The Greens sabotage a solution out of conviction,” economist and entrepreneur Björn Peters is also convinced. The party has dominated public debate and political decisions for years. Peters is convinced that the federal government no longer listens to experts when it comes to nuclear power. She relies on “zombie arguments”. An expression that Shellenberger also uses several times.

Although every effort is made here to stand for a constructive path and, unlike other climate activists, not to conjure up apocalyptic doomsday scenarios, the rhetoric of some nuclear power advocates is also based on sometimes greatly simplified narratives. After all, not only the Greens are skeptical about a return to nuclear power. And it was the CDU Chancellor, Angela Merkel, who sealed the end of nuclear power. At that time with the backing of a majority of the population.

It seems at least questionable whether the distrust that apparently prevails on both sides of the climate movements can be overcome in this way. Nevertheless, the pro-nuclear activists are convinced that the chances of a return to nuclear power have never been better. “Even the Greens will fall over, that’s a matter of a few weeks,” believes entrepreneur Peters.

“Kick-off Politics” is WELT’s daily news podcast. The most important topic analyzed by WELT editors and the dates of the day. Subscribe to the podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music or directly via RSS feed.