Germany debates how to dump nuclear power

BERLIN Fri Apr 15, 2011 11:43am EDT

1 of 2. A general view shows the cooling tower and the nuclear powerplants 'Isar 1+2' between the southern Bavarian villages of Niederaichbach and Essenbach near Landshut April 2, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Michaela Rehle

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BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany has embarked on a state-sponsored shift away from nuclear energy toward renewables and fossil fuels as worries over atomic power have grown in the wake of Japan's nuclear disaster.

Speaking after meeting leaders from the country's states on Friday, Chancellor Angela Merkel used some of her strongest language to date on the subject.

"We all want to exit nuclear energy as soon as possible and make the switch to supplying via renewable energy," she said, adding that efforts would focus on developing power grids, renewable technology and energy efficiency.

Japan's nuclear crisis has led to a volte face in Germany's nuclear energy plans and an immediate shutdown of several nuclear plants.

In a document from Friday's meeting obtained by Reuters, Merkel and her ministers laid out a six-point plan that includes a 5 billion-euro credit programme to support renewables.

It will also require building new gas and coal plants, Merkel said. "Gas and coal power plants were discussed... an accelerated exit from nuclear energy will lead to replacement power stations," she said.

Environment Minister Norbert Roettgen, who mentioned wind power as the main pillar of the new plan, said the cabinet aimed to agree the main points of its efforts in June.


Also speaking at the news conference following the meeting, Erwin Sellering, prime minister of the state of Mecklenburg Vorpommern, said the year 2022 was the latest possible date for the closure of Germany's last nuclear plant.

Germany generates around 23 percent of its power from nuclear sources and faces a supply squeeze if the switch is turned off before a 2022 deadline set in 2000 by the former center-left government of Social Democrats and Greens.

Shares in top energy firms such as E.ON and RWE fell on Friday in an otherwise buoyant market as uncertainty mounted over how the policy shift would affect them.

Physical coal and coal swaps rose by around 25 U.S. cents to $1.00, in line with stronger oil prices and boosted by Germany's plans to leave nuclear power.

German utilities are facing a big challenge as their most profitable large scale generation assets, their nuclear plants, face an uncertain future.

"A bigger bang is inevitable and needed. Utilities have a lot to lose," said Kepler Equities analyst Ingo Becker, who predicts both E.ON's and RWE's share prices could still lose more than 10 percent.

German firms are among world leaders in renewable energy and making equipment used for wind and solar power. The country gets 17 percent of its electricity from renewables and aims to raise that to 40 percent by 2020.

(Reporting by Thomas Atkins and Peter Dinkloh, additional reporting by Erik Kirschbaum; editing by Andrew Roche)

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Comments (3)
Bad_Economics wrote:
Nuclear electricity is the most expensive electricity in the world. Entitlements and tax-payer bailouts for the industry keep it afloat. The cost of managing the radioactive waste will cost taxpayers for the next 20,000 years. Would you buy a hamburger for $10,000? Nuclear electricity is the kind of electricity you use once and pay for every year until the cancer causing radiation disapates. How would you like to make house payments for the next 20,000 years. If so, just keep going along with your governments energy policies. Just do nothing.

Apr 15, 2011 10:51am EDT  --  Report as abuse
Ectrudert wrote:
The people of Germany should realize that substituting coal-fired power generation for nuclear power generation means more Germans, and other Europeans, will die sooner than they otherwise would have. Coal-fired power generation has much more severe public health impacts than nuclear does, even considering the Fukushima disaster. It is reasonable to forgo nuclear power generation if society is unwilling to accept its risks (and of course the nuclear industry has never been willing to accept these risks). But maybe Germany should demand more accountability from its coal-fired power generation sector–at least it should reduce particulate emissions or pay for the morbidity and mortality they cause.


Apr 15, 2011 2:08pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Chimac wrote:
Looks like the Japan Nuclear crisis is a silver lining for alternative energy production. Kind of crazy it takes a disaster to see the error of those old ways of thinking.

Apr 19, 2011 3:58pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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