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Germany announces end to nuclear power by 2022

30 may 2011, 11:00
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A Greenpeace activist places an anti-nuclear sign on top of landmark Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Germany. ©AFP
A Greenpeace activist places an anti-nuclear sign on top of landmark Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Germany. ©AFP
Germany on Monday announced plans to become the first major industralised power to shut down all its nuclear plants, with a phase-out due to be wrapped up by 2022, the government agreed Monday, AFP reports.

Environment Minister Norbert Roettgen announced the decision by the centre-right coalition, which was prompted by the Japan nuclear disaster, in the early hours of Monday morning, describing it as "irreversible".

He said the vast majority of Germany's 17 reactors would be offline by the end of 2011.

Roettgen was speaking after a meeting of the ruling coalition led by Chancellor Angela Merkel, which lasted from Sunday evening into the small hours of Monday.

Germany has 17 nuclear reactors on its territory, eight of which are currently off the electricity grid.

Seven of those offline are the country's oldest nuclear reactors, which the federal government shut down for three months pending a safety probe after the Japanese atomic emergency at Fukushima in March.

The eighth is the Kruemmel plant, in northern Germany, which has been mothballed for years because of technical problems.

Already Friday, the environment ministers from all 16 German regional states had called for the temporary order on the seven plants to be made permanent.

Roettgen said Monday that none of the eight reactors offline would be reactivated.

Monday's decision is effectively a return to the timetable set by the previous Social Democrat-Green coalition government a decade ago.

And it is a humbling U-turn for Merkel, who at the end of 2010 decided to extend the lifetime of Germany's 17 reactors by an average of 12 years, which would have kept them open until the mid-2030s.

That decision was unpopular in Germany even before the earthquake and tsunami in March that severely damaged the Fukushima nuclear facility in Japan, prompting Merkel's review of nuclear policy.

Her zig-zagging on what since the 1970s has been a highly emotive issue in the country has cost her since at the ballot box.

Merkel herself has blamed the Fukushima nuclear disaster for recent defeats in state elections.

In the latest, on May 23, the anti-nuclear Greens pushed her conservative party into third place in a vote in the northern state of Bremen, the first time they had scored more votes than the conservatives in a regional or federal election.

Monday's decision will make Germany the first major industrial power to give up atomic energy.

But it also means that the country will have to find the 22 percent of its electricity needs covered by nuclear reactors from another source.

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