Even though Germany's grand coalition agreed to make no changes to a plan to gradually phase out nuclear power in Germany, German Economics Minister Michael Glos believes it should remain.
Crucial to the economy, Glos says
Nuclear power should play a role in electricity production in Germany in the future and therefore Germany needs to reconsider closing its reactors, Glos told the Fra n kfurter Allgemei n e So n n tagszeitu n g.
"We need a broad energy mix to guarantee supplies at low prices," he said. "It doesn't make any sense for us to buy electricity produced by nuclear power from our neighbors but to totally turn our backs on it ourselves."
Germany's grand coalition of conservative Christian Union parties and their Social Democratic partners disagree on nuclear policy but agreed to stick to a plan created by the Social Democrats and Greens in 2000 to phase out the country's nuclear power facilities. Glos is a member of the Christian Social Union, the Bavarian sister party of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union.
Two dow n , so far
One of the most crucial pieces of legislation passed by outgoing Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's coalition of Social Democrats (SPD) and Greens, in the eyes of many, was a planned phase-out of Germany's atomic energy plants by 2020.
The idea, largely pressed by the environmentally-friendly Greens, was to focus on renewable energy and away from a crippling dependence on oil. It also found support at a time when safety concerns over nuclear power reactors were highlighted with accidents like the one in Chernobyl in 1986.
Due to close in 2008
So far, the government has closed two nuclear reactors. The remaining 17, owned by utilities RWE AG, E.ON AG and EnBW, are to be closed over the next 15 years. The next due to close, according to the environment ministry, is RWE's "Biblis A" reactor, in 2008.
Merkel wa n ts to stop n uclear phase out
The conservatives led by chancellor-designate Angela Merkel have made no secret of the fact that they intend to put the brakes on the nuclear-phase out.
Earlier this year, Merkel argued in a speech that if Germany is no longer active in nuclear power, it would have no influence on the international market when it comes to exporting nuclear technology. The conservatives are keen to provide Germany, a large importer of oil and gas, with greater energy security and allow the energy industry to earn more by extending the life of their plants.
Agree to disgree, for now
"In my view, an ideologically motivated nuclear phase-out does not reflect economic demands," Merkel said, citing the fact that countries such as India and China are expanding their nuclear energy capacities. "For me, the question is, how can Germany, with its technical know-how, profit from this export potential. As a patriot, I would like to see my country profit from our expertise, not watch others take the profits."
But, Michael Müller, vice-chairman of the SPD parliamentary group demanded that the conservatives finally recognize that they "have no chance" to chip away at nuclear phase-out with the SPD. Müller argued that if the nuclear plants were indeed allowed to run longer, they would have to undergo updated security modifications -- something that would cost money, he said.
Maki n g a comeback
One thing that's bolstered the conservatives' case is the fact that nuclear energy has been gradually making a comeback in Europe with the first new nuclear plant on the continent in years being built in Finland.
Its supporters also point out that nuclear reactors emit virtually no greenhouse gases.
"We should not turn our backs on a technology of the future," Glos told the newspaper. "I hope that the last word has not been spoken."