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Germany

Opposition-led states file lawsuit against nuclear power extension

Opposition parties from five Germans states are taking the national government to court over plans to extend the lifespan of Germany's 17 nuclear power plants, insisting that their approval is required.

Nuclear power plant

Nuclear power plants are to run for an average 12 extra years

Five German states led by opposition parties filed a lawsuit in the country's highest court on Monday, arguing that the government's extension of the lifespan of nuclear power plants should have needed their approval.

The legislation, which plans to keep Germany's 17 nuclear power plants running for an average 12 extra years, was passed by the lower house of parliament, the Bundestag, last October.

The upper house, or Bundesrat, is composed of the 16 state governments. About half of legislation passed by the Bundestag requires the Bundesrat's approval, namely when states' financial or legislative interests are affected.

Chancellor Angela Merkel lost her majority in the Bundesrat last May, and the opposition's lead in the upper house is expected to widen throughout the year as several states hold elections.

Bundesrat chambers

The upper house votes on only about half of all bills passed

Merkel's government eventually decided the nuclear legislation did not need the absolute approval of the Bundesrat. The upper house was still forced to pass it in a procedural vote to avoid a time-consuming mediation with the lower house.

The state governments of Berlin, Bremen, North Rhine-Westphalia, Brandenburg and Rhineland Palatinate, all led by the center-left Social Democrats and Greens, argue they should have had a vote on the nuclear power extension because they will have to pay for improving the security of older reactors.

'Risky and backward-looking' policy

A previous government in 2000, led by the center-left Social Democrats and Greens, had passed legislation that would have totally phased out nuclear power by around 2020.

Polls suggest a majority of Germans oppose Merkel's plans to push back that phase-out. Merkel's government argues that the energy sector needs more time to replace nuclear power with renewable alternatives.

Nuclear power plants generate almost a quarter of Germany's energy. Renewables provide about 15 percent, while the remainder comes from fossil fuels like coal.

Margit Conrad, environment minister of Rhineland Palatinate, said the lawsuit was aimed at the "risky and backward-looking energy and industrial policy."

"We are committed to a nuclear power phase-out," she said.

Author: Andrew Bowen (AFP, AP, dpa)
Editor: Andreas Illmer

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