UPDATE 3-Germany to shut down pre-1980 nuclear plants

Tue Mar 15, 2011 12:23pm EDT

Related Topics

* Only 10 of Germany's 17 nuclear plants to stay open

* About a third of German nuclear capacity to be shut down

* Merkel's conservatives face defeat in regional elections

* Opposition accuses Merkel of transparent trickery

(Adds details of capacity to be shut down, share falls)

By David Stamp

BERLIN, March 15 (Reuters) - Germany will shut down all seven of its nuclear power plants that began operating before 1980 at least till June, the government said on Tuesday, leaving open whether they will ever start up again after Japan's crisis.

Chancellor Angela Merkel announced the closures, which will leave only 10 nuclear stations still generating, under a nuclear policy moratorium imposed as Japan faced a potential catastrophe at its earthquake-crippled Fukushima complex.

"Power plants that went into operation before the end of 1980 will ... be shut down for the period of the moratorium," Merkel told a news conference, adding that the decision would be carried out by government decree as no agreement with the plants' operators had been reached.

Environment Minister Norbert Roettgen said it was not clear if the reactors to be shut down in the three-month moratorium would remain closed or be reconnected to the grid afterwards.

Merkel astonished German politicians on Monday by suspending an unpopular coalition decision taken only last autumn, under which the life of Germany's 17 nuclear power plants would be extended by years. [ID:nLDE72D1PN]

She drew accusations on Tuesday of transparent trickery for the move, with the opposition and media saying she was trying to avoid a regional election disaster later this month.

PANIC AND PARTY POLITICS

The seven ageing plants account for about a third of Germany's nuclear capacity. However, one of them has been offline since an accident in 2007, and another shut down last month for maintenance. [ID:nLDE72E0OD] [ID:nLDE72E1U0]

Business leaders urged caution when making major decisions on nuclear plants, which in total supply about a quarter of all electricity needed to power Europe's biggest economy. "Panic and party politics make bad advisers," said Hans Heinrich Driftmann, who heads the German Chamber of Industry and Trade.

The government said reliable power supplies were assured, but German electricity prices hit their highest level since October 2009 after Merkel's announcement. [nLDE72E1AA]

Merkel said consequences of the Japanese crisis had to be dealt with at an international level.

"Yesterday I agreed with the French President Nicolas Sarkozy that Germany and France ... would put forward an initiative to put safety of nuclear plants onto the international agenda within the framework of the G20," she said.

Last year the government had decided to keep the nuclear plants -- operated by E.ON (EONGn.DE), RWE (RWEG.DE), EnBW (EBKG.DE) and Vattenfall [VATN.UL] -- running for about 12 years beyond their original shutdown date, despite protests even before the earthquake and tsunami hit Japan on Friday.

Shares of E.ON and RWE were down 5 percent and 5.2 percent, after falls of 5.3 and 4.8 percent respectively on Monday due to limited prospects for nuclear power in the EU. [ID:nLDE72E0BM]

"TRANSPARENT TRICK"

Merkel's policy change drew cynicism from the opposition. "She just wants to get through the provincial assembly elections," said Social Democrat leader Sigmar Gabriel, accusing her of playing political tactics with people's fears.

"The whole thing doesn't make sense and is really just a transparent trick," he told ARD television.

Merkel faces three regional elections in the next fortnight, including in the southwestern state of Baden-Wuerttemberg, which has long been a stronghold of her Christian Democrats (CDU).

Even before the Japanese crisis the CDU faced losing control in Baden-Wuerttemberg, one of Germany's most economically vibrant states, for the first time in over 60 years.

Last year the party was voted out in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany's most populous state, and in February it suffered an eletoral thrashing in the city of Hamburg.

As a result of the setbacks, Merkel's coalition with the Free Democrats has already lost its majority in the upper house of parliament, the Bundesrat, whose make-up is decided by parties' relative strength in the states.

Defeat in Baden-Wuerttemberg would also deliver a huge psychological blow to Merkel, who is under fire for Germany's role in bailouts for debt-stricken euro zone states. One of the plants to close suspension is in Baden-Wuerttemberg.

Merkel won early support for the suspension. An ARD poll showed 80 percent support for the decision, with 53 percent backing closure of all German reactors as soon as possible. (Additional reporting by Brian Rohan, Gernot Heller and Thomas Seythal; Editing by Elizabeth Fullerton)

FILED UNDER:
We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (26)
Japan radiation

BP’s Gulf of Mexico

9/11 mass murder scam

Mar 15, 2011 10:42am EDT  --  Report as abuse
Not a good move at the present time if you ask me. Sure, shut down the facilities that are in immediate danger of causing a problem. That’s just plain common sense.

But to arbitrarily shut down 42% of the facilities that generate 25% of your electrical power based solely on a disaster occurring in Japan as a result of an earthquake and corresponding tsunami is an irrational response and will dramatically affect the world supply of crude oil in a world wide economic crisis just to make up the difference.

When the world is desperately searching for a non-hydrocarbon solution to its energy problems taking the steps as we are witnessing in Germany are really nothing more than political game playing that could easily have world wide catastrophic effects.

Now I am not saying these plants are entirely safe. But I do wonder how many 8.9 earthquakes and corresponding tsunamis have occurred in Germany’s history? This is nothing more than a knee jerk reaction for political purposes IN MY OPINION.

Mar 15, 2011 10:45am EDT  --  Report as abuse
Not a good move at the present time if you ask me. Sure, shut down the facilities that are in immediate danger of causing a problem. That’s just plain common sense.

But to arbitrarily shut down 42% of the facilities that generate 25% of your electrical power based solely on a disaster occurring in Japan as a result of an earthquake and corresponding tsunami is an irrational response and will dramatically affect the world supply of crude oil in a world wide economic crisis just to make up the difference.

When the world is desperately searching for a non-hydrocarbon solution to its energy problems taking the steps as we are witnessing in Germany are really nothing more than political game playing that could easily have world wide catastrophic effects.

Now I am not saying these plants are entirely safe. But I do wonder how many 8.9 earthquakes and corresponding tsunamis have occurred in Germany’s history? This is nothing more than a knee jerk reaction for political purposes IN MY OPINION.

Mar 15, 2011 10:45am EDT  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.