Germany′s Nuclear Phase-Out Ignites Fresh Political Row | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 02.09.2007
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Germany

Germany's Nuclear Phase-Out Ignites Fresh Political Row

Although Germany decided years ago to phase-out nuclear power, politicians from the country's governing parties continue to argue about how and when it will happen.

Biblis nuclear power plant

Germany could also phase nuclear power back in

Christian Democrat Ronald Pofalla, the party's secretary general, rejected a call by Social Democratic Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel for Germany's seven oldest nuclear plants to be shut down years earlier than planned. Gabriel had said the reactors' permits to produce a certain amount of electricity could be transferred to newer plants.

"It's not about old or new, but about safe or not," Pofalla said on ZDF television. He added that there was no reason to believe that the older plants did not meet the necessary safety standards.

Gabriel had said in an interview with the Süddeutsche Zeitung published on Saturday that shutting down the plants would "significantly lower the general nuclear risk." He pointed to recent incidents at the Krümmel and Brunsbüttel plants.

The plants had to be shut down in June after problems occurred outside of the reactors. Subsequently, the authorities discovered additional problems in both places.

Gabriel said that although the incidents hadn't posed an immediate danger to people's safety, they showed the "vulnerability of complex nuclear technology."
Sigmar Gabreil

Gabriel has irritated nulcear power proponents


His suggestions to transfer permits to newer reactors could result in only 10 of Germany's 17 reactors being in use by 2009, with the last one out of commission in 2023, the paper calculated.

The nuclear phase-out Germany agreed upon under former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's government of Social Democrats and Greens would result in the last reactor being shut down in 2020.

Industry dismissive

Germany's nuclear industry dismissed Gabriel's comments, the Berliner Zeitung newspaper wrote in its Monday edition. What was necessary was to discuss finding the right mixture of energy and what power sources would be needed in the future, it quoted an unnamed industry insider as saying.

"If there was a genuine safety problem, Mr. Gabriel would have had to shut down the plants a long time ago," the person said.

Energy companies active in Germany have applied to transfer permits for energy production from new to old plants, but none have been filed to shift the permits from old to new plants, according to the Süddeutsche Zeitung. The nuclear industry continues to push for Germany to reverse its decision to phase out nuclear power.

Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats, too, would prefer for Germany to stick with nuclear energy.

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