March 12, 2012 / 9:16 AM / 7 years ago

Austria expects EU anti-nuclear campaign this year

* Chancellor sees petitions in at least 6 countries -paper

* Austria banned atomic plants in 1974

* Aim is no nuclear-generated power imports-Environment min

* Seeks enough renewable energy to be power exporter by 2014/15

VIENNA, March 12 (Reuters) - Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann expects petition drives to start in at least six European Union members this year with the goal of having the EU abandon nuclear power, he said in a newspaper interview.

Under the EU’s Lisbon Treaty, petitions that attract at least one million signatures can seek legislative proposals from the European Commission, and Faymann said rules on this should be ratified by June.

This would pave the way for anti-nuclear activists to start garnering support “and I expect the petition drive will start in at least six EU countries in autumn”, he told the Oesterreich paper in an interview printed on Monday.

“The goal is a Europe-wide exit from nuclear energy, so no more nuclear plants in the EU. This will be a long road, but immediately there should be funds only for safety and the exit plan,” he added.

Austria is a vocal opponent of nuclear energy and banned atomic plants in 1974. The Fukushima disaster in Japan has reinforced its stance, while Europe’s divisions over nuclear power have deepened in the year since Fukushima’s meltdown.

Germany has decided to close all its reactors by 2022 and Italians have voted to ban atomic power for decades to come, but Britain and France remain committed to the technology. Energy policy in the EU is primarily a matter for national governments.

In a separate interview, Austrian Environment Minister Nikolaus Berlakovich told Oesterreich the country would no longer import electricity generated by nuclear power as soon as it had enough renewable energy to become a power exporter.

“We are working towards being so far along by 2014 or 2015,” he was quoted as saying. (Reporting by Michael Shields; Editing by Jon Loades-Carter)

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