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No clear concept

November 25, 2009

New German environment minister Norbert Roettgen disappointed the nuclear power industry on Wednesday by saying that Germans did not want nuclear power in the long-run. But his words did not impress the Green party.

Norbert Roettgen
Norbert Roettgen did not manage to reassure environmentalistsImage: picture-alliance/ dpa

"We can only use nuclear power in the long-term if the majority of people accept it," the new Christian Democrat environment minister Norbert Roettgen said on Wednesday. This, he told the tabloid Bild, has not been the case in Germany for decades, and did not look like changing soon. There was little chance that Germany would change its policy of phasing out nuclear power in the long-term.

Roettgen's statement came after the new German government recently abandoned Germany's commitment to setting a time limit of 2021 for phasing out nuclear power in the country. That decision had been made in 2000 by the coalition of Social Democrats and Greens under Gerhard Schroeder's chancellorship.

Merkel, Westerwelle, Seehofer
The German government's energy concept is short on specificsImage: a

The new center-right coalition of Christian Democrats (CDU) and Free Democrats (FDP) opted instead to extend the life-spans of some of Germany's oldest nuclear power stations, garnering the approval of Germany's large energy companies.

But Roettgen's latest interview warned those energy companies not to get too cosy. Roettgen also warned against the expectation that nuclear energy means cheap energy. "It would be dishonest to promise cheap energy," he said, "If we extend the life-spans, then it is also because we want to invest the extra profits into renewable energy sources."

No negotiations, no concept

Roettgen had already said in recent weeks that he only wanted to extend the life-spans in individual cases, but it remains unclear whether the FDP agrees with this policy. The coalition agreement remains ambiguous on the point, saying only that the government is "prepared to extend the lifespans of German nuclear power stations within the strict guidelines of German and international safety standards".

Renate Kuenast
Green party leader Renate Kuenast is still skepticalImage: AP

Despite promises from Economy Minister Rainer Bruederle and other politicians that action would be taken quickly, no negotiations for extensions have yet begun.

A cabinet meeting held last week in Meseberg outside Berlin was concluded only with the decision to create a complete and detailed government concept for energy policy by October 2010.

Environmentalists reacted to Roettgen's latest statements with scorn. The anti-nuclear organisation Ausgestrahlt (Radiated) dismissed his statements as "deception of the worst kind". The Green party's parliamentary leader Renate Kuenast also placed little trust in the environment minister. "He's the wolf in red-riding hood's cloak," she told the Leipziger Volkszeitung newspaper.

Editor: Michael Lawton