Germany′s plans to end use of nuclear power get a boost | News | DW | 29.05.2012
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Germany's plans to end use of nuclear power get a boost

Germany's grid operators have announced plans for a major expansion of the network. The move is seen as key part of the country's goal of ending the use of nuclear energy in 10 years' time.

The German government's plans to do away with the use of nuclear energy got a boost on Tuesday when the country's power grid operators announced plans to make major investments to expand the grid.

The head of grid operator Tennet, Martin Fuchs, told a press conference in Bonn that Germany's transition away from nuclear power would cost about 20 billion euros ($25 billion) over the next decade. He said those funds would go towards modernizing the existing grid and constructing around 3,800 kilometers (2,360 miles) of new, mainly high-voltage power lines.

Fuchs warned though, that the job won't be easy, but "we believe Germany can achieve it."

Three other high-voltage grid operators, Amprion, 50Hertz and TransnetBW are also involved in the project.

The lack of capacity of the grid is seen as one of the major problems Germany will have to overcome if it is to successfully make the transition.

"Without the expansion of the electricity network, progress on renewable energy won't produce results," the head of Germany's Federal Network Agency, Jochen Homann, told the news conference, which was also attended by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Environment Minister Peter Altmaier and Finance Minister Philipp Rösler.

Major step

The chancellor described the expansion plans unveiled on Tuesday as a "very major step" in the overall plan to end the use of nuclear energy. She also expressed confidence that the transition would be completed according to plan.

Chancellor Angela Merkel and Jochen Homann

Merkel and Homann agreed that the move was crucial

"The transition is feasible in the way we decided it a year ago," Merkel said.

The chancellor was referring to her center-right government's decision in March 2011 to permanently switch off the nine nuclear power plants that continue to operate in Germany by 2022. The country's eight oldest plants were also shut down, following the March 11 nuclear disaster at Fukushima in Japan.

The chancellor has been taking a hands-on approach to the issue in recent weeks, holding regular meetings with the premiers of the Germany's 16 states to identify problems associated with the planned transition.

With a view to the slow progress in expanding the power network so far, some politicians, including members of her own center-right coalition had expressed doubts about whether getting the job done within the planned timeframe was realistic.

pfd/ng (dpa, AFP)