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Yellow drums meant to signify nuclear drums are stacked at a nuclear facility in Lingen
Nuclear power remains unpopular in GermanyImage: AP

Nuclear legality

February 3, 2011

Residents living near a handful of Germany's nuclear plants, along with environmental group Greenpeace, have filed a case with the constitutional court over a new law extending the lifespan of the nuclear plants.


Environmentalist group Greenpeace has filed a case with Germany's Constitutional Court against moves by the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel to extend the life of the country's seven oldest nuclear power plants.

"Everyone has the right to life and physical inviolability," Greenpeace said in a statement on its website, adding that these fundamental rights were "bound by legislation, executive authority and jurisprudence."

The group said the government had taken the decision to extend the lifespan of Germany's nuclear plants to serve commercial interests, but had inadvertently jeopardized the safety of citizens living near the plants.

Greenpeace's 73-page case file, which was handed in to the Karlsruhe court on Thursday in cooperation with residents' groups living near the nuclear plants, argues that the nuclear sites were inadequately protected against plane crashes and that safe nuclear waste disposal was not yet possible.

"The continued operation of the old reactors is highly dangerous, and the safe disposal of nuclear waste is not in sight," said Greenpeace nuclear expert Heinz Smital.

Widespread opposition

German Chancellor Angela Merkel
Merkel says nuclear energy can help Germany be greenerImage: AP

Opposition parties from five German states also plan to complain to the constitutional court on the grounds that the lifespan extension of the country's nuclear plants did not have the approval of parliament's upper chamber, the Bundesrat.

The governing coalition lost its majority in the Bundesrat mid last year, though it still has a majority in the Bundestag, or lower house.

Merkel has said she favored extended use of the plants to meet energy demands in the European Union's largest power user. Proponents say longer use of nuclear power would also cut greenhouse gases blamed for global warming.

Germany's 17 nuclear reactors accounted for an estimated 23 percent of the country's power generation last year, while coal and natural gas made up a combined 55 percent.

Merkel's center-right coalition intended to revoke a law passed under former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's center-left coalition that foresaw shutting down all nuclear power plants in Germany by 2020.

Author: Darren Mara (dpa, AP)
Editor: Andreas Illmer

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