EU′s Barroso Adds Fuel to German Nuclear Power Debate | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 06.07.2008
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EU's Barroso Adds Fuel to German Nuclear Power Debate

European Commission President Barroso praised the value of nuclear energy in a German newspaper interview on Sunday, firing up the ongoing debate in the country -- and the cabinet -- already split over the issue.

A young woman with an anti nuclear power sticker on her forehead

Anti-nuclear campaigners don't want Germany to reverse its nuclear phase-out policy

EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso

EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso

Jose Manuel Barroso said that nuclear power could provide at least a temporary solution to the ongoing energy crisis.

"We know that nuclear energy is a delicate issue in Germany," Barroso told Bild am Sonntag newspaper, in an interview published on Sunday, July 6.

"On the other hand, more and more countries see in nuclear energy an -- at least temporary -- solution to stop climate change and to reduce our dependency on oil and gas," he added.

The German government -- consisting of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) and their coalition partners, the Social Democrats (SPD) -- is itself deeply divided on the issue.

While conservatives near Merkel have repeatedly demanded that Germany slash a scheduled nuclear energy phase-out, the SPD has remained in favor of the plan to shut down Germany's 17 nuclear reactors by 2021.

The gradual phase-out of all Germany's nuclear power plants was agreed upon in 2000 by the government of former Social Democratic Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and his coalition partners at the time, the Greens.

An eerie comeback?

Greenpeace activists adjust a makeshift inflatable giant nuclear bomb

Germany has vocal environmental activists who oppose nuclear energy

With soaring oil prices in the world and reports indicating that biofuels may have contributed to the increase of food prices all over the globe, the question of nuclear energy in Germany no longer seems to be a closed chapter.

"Nuclear power? The eerie comeback", ran the front-page headline on the latest edition of Der Spiegel magazine.

Technology Minister Annette Schavan, a conservative, called for the phase-out deal to be abandoned for pragmatic reasons.

"We need to exit the exit resolution," she told Bild am Sonntag. "We urgently need the life-span extension -- as a contribution to global climate protection and for a lasting energy supply."

"In Germany today, the issue is not about building new nuclear power plants but who can say whether that will still apply in 10 years?" Schavan asked.

The Social Democrats' parliamentary floor leader Peter Struck, however, rejected the idea of prolonging the atomic power plants' life-span.

"That is irresponsible, so long as the question of the disposal of highly radioactive waste is not solved," Struck told Sunday's edition of Der Tagesspiegel newspaper.

Windy alternative

A windfarm

Germany is planning a massive wind energy project in the north

Transportation Minister Wolfgang Tiefensee, a Social Democrat, told Welt am Sonntag he had finalized plans to build up to 30 offshore windfarms in the Baltic and North seas in an attempt to meet the government's renewable energy targets.

"We believe in renewable energy and not in nuclear energy," he said.

The first windfarm is expected to go up off Borkum island in the North Sea later this year.

"The government is aiming to obtain "25,000 megawatts of energy from windfarms by 2030", Tiefensee said.

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