Germany's Cabinet on Wednesday approved an executive decision by Chancellor Olaf Scholz to keep the country's three remaining nuclear plants operating beyond an end date set by the government of former Chancellor Angela Merkel and originally confirmed by the current ruling coalition.
The Cabinet approval of the decision to keep the plants in operation until mid-April 2023 instead of closing them down at the end of the year comes as many fear energy shortfalls amid fallout from Russia's invasion of Ukraine and a cut in Russian gas supplies.
Scholz, a Social Democrat (SPD), made the executive decision to allow the nuclear plants to stay running until April 15 next year on Monday after coalition partners the Green Party and the Free Democrats (FDP) failed to reach agreement on the issue.
The Green Party, which is traditionally opposed to nuclear power, had wanted two southern German nuclear plants to be kept ready only in reserve. The business-friendly FDP, the smallest party in the coalition, is in favor of keeping all three nuclear facilities running for a considerably longer period of time.
On Wednesday, Economy Minister Robert Habeck of the Greens said that Scholz' decision had "created clarity after a somewhat difficult path," while stressing, in a warning to the FDP, that the chancellor's plan meant that the use of nuclear power in Germany would cease in mid-April.
"I trust that the FDP will stick to the [coalition] agreement and not damage the authority of the chancellor" by calling for further extensions, said Habeck, who is also vice chancellor.
Habeck said the continued operations of the three plants would "help in this fraught time," especially with regard to grid stability in southern Germany.
Environment Minister Steffi Lemke, also of the Greens, said that the proposal made it clear "that no new fuel elements are allowed to be procured" and echoed Habeck's contention that the nuclear phaseout would now be completed in April.
Parliamentary approval needed
So far, all coalition members have said they will abide by the decision.
But the opposition has used the dispute to highlight alleged disunity in the coalition government. The leader of the conservative Christian Democratic Union, Friedrich Merz, told broadcaster Deutschlandfunk on Wednesday that the chancellor's use of hisexecutive powers underlined the coalition's inability to take necessary decisions.
The nuclear plants in question are Isar 2, Neckarwestheim 2 and Emsland.
The extension of the operating period for the plants must still receive parliamentary approval, with votes to be held on the issue next month.
tj/wmr (AFP, dpa)
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