The Bundestag has agreed to allow a commission of experts to launch a search for a new nuclear waste disposal site. The law ends radioactive transports to the controversial site in Gorleben for the time being.
In one of its final decisions before adjourning for summer recess on Friday, Germany's lower house of parliament overwhelmingly agreed to launch a nationwide search for a new, more suitable nuclear waste disposal site. Critics of the current repository in Lower Saxony - Gorleben - have hounded politicians to find a safer location.
"This was a good day for parliament," German Environmental Minister Peter Altmaier of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) said following the vote.
"The point wasn't to choose a location favored for polical reasons; it was about finding the best place [for Germany]," Altmaier said.
The upper house, the Bundesrat, is expected to approve the legislation on July 5.
Under the terms of the measure, the government will commission a group of roughly 30 experts to oversee the search. The panel, comprised of members of parliament, scientists and representatives from various interest groups, must present a list of criteria for the search by 2015. It must convene publicly before approving stipulations for the selection process.
A federal office for nuclear waste disposal, slated for opening in 2014, is to oversee the project.
German parliamentarians must approve a final repository for nuclear waste by 2031 at the latest.
Altmaier called the cross-party decision "a historic fresh start."
The parliamentary approval stems from a 2011 decision - in the wake of Japan's Fukushima disaster - to shut down Germany's 19 nuclear reactors by 2022.
Although Christian Democratic Union (CDU), SPD, FDP and Greens politicians agreed on the legislation, the Left party opposed the measure because Gorleben would still be considered during the search.
Left politician Dorothee Menzer disputed Altmaier's claim that Germany had chosen a fresh start, arguing that Gorleben must not be considered.
"There's a huge potential for making a premature decision," Menzer added, referring to the cost, projected at nearly 2 billion euros ($2.6 billion).
However, Lower Saxony's premier, Stephan Weil, praised the move and appeared to have no problem with the search commission having the option to choose Gorleben again.
"[The Bundestag's proposal] is acceptable for Lower Saxony," Weil told Hannover's daily, the Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung, adding that it had cleared his state of its previous concerns.
Lawmakers on Friday postponed selecting alternate locations for the remaining 26 transports heading for Gorleben, which must now be rerouted under the law, which now awaits final approval.
kms/hc (AFP, dpa, epd)