Plutonium Plant Sale Vetoed? | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 20.03.2004
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Plutonium Plant Sale Vetoed?

The German government has allegedly decided to veto the proposed sale of a plutonium plant to China as it could provoke a crisis for the coalition of Social Democrats and Greens, according to news reports.


Environmentalists oppose the proposed sale of the plant.

While a government spokesperson denied a report by German news magazine Der Spiegel that a decision had been made, Greens party leader Reinhard Bütikofer said new questions regarding the proposed use of the plant in China had been raised recently.

Quoting a Chinese engineer involved in the project, German daily Frankfurter Rundschau had reported that China wants to use the plant to produce fuel rods for nuclear plants that produce weapon grade plutonium.

Plutoniumfabrik Hanau geht eventuell nach China

A room inside the plant.

"That would definitely cross the line," Bütikofer told Kurier am Sonntag in Bremen. "That would mean that we couldn’t legally approve the sale."

According to Der Spiegel, the sale fell through after German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer (Greens) warned Chancellor Gerhard Schröder (SPD) that a sale would not be tolerated by Green party members and would provoke a crisis for the coalition.

Opposition members criticized the move as a "catastrophic mistake" that resulted from the need to give in to the interests of Green party members. "The chancellor's word obviously doesn't count for much any more," said Wolfgang Gerhardt, the parliamentary leader of the liberal Free Democrats.

Schröder had voiced his support for the sale during a visit to China last December. The application for the sale of the dismantled plant near Frankfurt by Siemens is currently being checked by the foreign ministry.

As a consolation prize for the lost sale, which would bring Siemens around €50 million ($61 million), Schröder allegedly introduced Siemens to a consortium of companies that is setting up a truck toll system for Germany, Der Spiegel reported. Siemens is scheduled to supply the oftware for the troubled project. A government spokesman denied any connection between the two matters.

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