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Germany

Swedish Nukes Revival Has German Right Asking for More

After Sweden decided to scrap its ban against building new nuclear power plants, several politicians from Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) said Germany should do the same.

Greenpeace protests nuclear energy

Will nukes soon be making a comeback in Germany?

"When European countries are planning to build nuclear plants again, Germany can't be the odd one out," CDU parliamentarian Katherina Reiche, told Bild am Sonntag newspaper.

Sweden announced last week that it was revoking a 1980 referendum decision to phase out nuclear power. Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt and the leaders of the three other parties in the coalition described the deal as "historic."

The Swedish government, which took office in October 2006, had initially agreed not to discuss building more reactors or decommissioning any of the 10 reactors currently operated during its current four-year term. The debate about climate change and need to secure long-term energy production, however, forced the rethink.

Similar situation

Containers transporting nuclear waste

Storing nulear waste is still a problem

Now, German conservative politicians are increasingly pushing for a similar reconsideration of the country's energy strategy, even though the German grand coalition government still officially stands by the nuclear phase-out plan from 2000.

According to that plan, which was adopted by then Chancellor Gerhard Schröder and his SPD-Green coalition, nuclear power should be completely phased out in Germany by 2020 with heavy investments going into renewable energies.

With gas and oil prices rocketing and fears about global warming growing, however, nuclear power seems to be experiencing a global renaissance.

"After Sweden, Finland, France and Great Britain decided [in favour of nuclear energy], we Germans will also have to think about building new nuclear plants in the future," CDU lawmaker Axel Fischer told Bild am Sonntag.

A contested issue

German nuclear plant Biblis

Nuclear energy may be a German election issue

While conservative politicians are openly talking about the need for rethinking the country's energy policy, the Social Democrats -- who are also members of Angela Merkel's grand coalition -- remain opposed to the idea of letting German nuclear plants work beyond 2020.

Environment Minister and SPD member Sigmar Gabriel said in several interviews over the weekend that he was not afraid of nuclear phase-out becoming an issue in the forthcoming general elections this fall.

"But we still have no terminal storage [for nuclear waste], and we have to make it clear that we'll have to look for it all over Germany," Gabriel told Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung on Saturday.

Germany's Social Democrats like to stress the risks that the nuclear industry poses for the environment, whereas the conservatives are raising concerns about securing the country's energy supply in the time of economic crisis.

"Almost all of our neighbors have realized the need for nuclear energy as part of a modern energy mix -- except for the SPD," said CDU General Secretary Ronald Pofalla.

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