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Germany

Germany throws the switch on seven aging nuclear reactors

The seven oldest nuclear power plants in Germany have been taken offline in light of safety concerns following the continuing nuclear crisis in Japan. The rest of Germany's nuclear sites are now up for safety checks.

A German nuclear plant

German nuclear sites will undergo safety checks

The last of seven German nuclear sites slated for shutting down was taken offline on Saturday. This follows a decision by Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday to remove the country's seven oldest plants from the grid pending extra safety checks in response to Japan's ongoing nuclear crisis.

The seven plants generated about a third of Germany's nuclear power from a total of 17 sites. Nuclear power accounts for about 25 percent of Germany's annual energy consumption.

All of Germany's nuclear facilities are scheduled for thorough checks until mid-June. This period of time represents a moratorium on a government decision regarding an extension of Germany's nuclear power plants. A plan put forward in 2002 by an earlier government had called for the complete phase-out of nuclear power in Germany by 2022. However, last autumn Merkel's government called this date into question, and now the decision to set a new date has been postponed.

In her weekly video podcast released on Saturday, Merkel called for EU-wide safety standards to be created for nuclear plants.

Political power play

Continuing fears of a nuclear catastrophe at Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant following the country's deadly earthquake and tsunami have renewed the debate about the use of nuclear power in Germany.

Angela Merkel

Merkel decided to shut down seven plants

Merkel's decision to shut down the seven plants and the postponement of a decision on extending the life of Germany's nuclear facilities is being seen by some members of the opposition as politically motivated.

In an interview with German public radio, opposition Social Democrat leader Sigmar Gabriel said, "We are experiencing an end to the atomic era." He added that it was only a question of how long it took to stop using nuclear power.

Gabriel said Merkel's decision was merely a tactic to carry her through upcoming state elections.

"After that, some nuclear sites will be shut down but others significantly extended," he said. "That is no way out of atomic energy."

Author: Matt Zuvela (dapd, Reuters)

Editor: Sean Sinico

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