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Conservative fission

February 13, 2010

Germany's environment minister said that no efforts should be wasted to replace nuclear technology as fast as possible, but German states with atomic power facilities are pushing for a 20-year delay.

Radioactive rods in nuclear power plant Philippsburg
Germany plans to shut down its nuclear reactors, but when?Image: picture alliance/dpa

The conservative regional environment ministers from the states of Bavaria, Baden Wuerttemberg and Hesse said in a joint press conference on Friday, February 12, that Germany will need nuclear power for considerably longer before renewable energies are ready to viably replace the technology.

Norbert Roettgen
Roettgen is accused of flip-flopping on government policyImage: picture-alliance/ dpa

"We don't think that [Environment Minister] Norbert Roettgen's sums add up," said regional Environment Minister Tanya Goenner.

In an interview with the daily paper Sueddeutsche Zeitung earlier this week, Roettgen advocated extending the already limited running times of German nuclear power plants by a further eight years.

This would mean German atomic energy plants should shut down 40 years after they started operating, a deadline ranging between 2015 and 2029 for various plants across the country. Roettgen, however, also said that safety issues could lead to changes in the dates of disassembly.

The three dissenters - Markus Soeder from Bavaria, Tanya Goeder from Baden Wuerttemberg, and Silke Lautenschlaeger from Hesse - advocate a further 20 years on top of Roettgen's suggestion. All of them represent German states with nuclear power plants and argue that renewable energy will not be ready to replace atomic power in time to realize Roettgen's proposal.

A hasty withdrawal?

A major anti-nuclear protest in Berlin last year.
The German public largely oppose nuclear powerImage: AP

While the opposition in Germany - especially the Green party and the Social Democrats - are calling for a near immediate shut down of nuclear power plants, Chancellor Merkel's Christian Democratic Union and her liberal FDP coalition ally have argued that nuclear power should be used to bridge the gap until renewable power is more widely used, and cost-efficient.

But nuclear power remains very unpopular amongst the German population, and the environment minister suggested this was part of his motivation to move away from atomic energy as quickly as possible.

"This whole debate shows, that even after 40 years, nuclear power still hasn't gained public acceptance in Germany," Roettgen told the newspaper, adding that this was a good reason to try to quickly replace it.

"I think the Christian Democratic Union… should think carefully about whether we want to make nuclear power one of our unique selling points," Roettgen said. "It would be better for people to associate us with the economic and ecological modernization of this country."

"We should not bind our public approval too closely with the continued, uninterrupted usage of nuclear power plants," he said.

Editor: Toma Tasovac