The Greens claimed Chancellor Merkel's nuclear reversal as a victory during their special conference in Berlin. Although a majority of the delegates supported the 2022 phase-out date, others insisted on 2017.
Party leaders successfully pushed through the 2022 date
Germany's environmentally focused Green party voted during a special party conference in Berlin on Saturday to support the proposal introduced by Chancellor Angela Merkel's center-right government to completely phase out nuclear energy by 2022.
The leadership of the opposition Green party, which has opposed atomic energy for three decades, claimed the stunning reversal of Chancellor Angela Merkel's government as their own success.
Merkel's coalition government had originally voted in 2010 to extend the life of Germany's 17 nuclear power plants until 2040. The March, 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, however, triggered a popular anti-atomic energy backlash in Germany that ultimately forced the Merkel government to abandon its own position.
Currently, eight of Germany's 17 nuclear power plants are offline and will not be re-activated. The additional nine are scheduled to be de-activated by 2022. The German parliament will vote on Merkel's plans for a nuclear phase out on Thursday.
"Our success is a disastrous defeat for the pro-atomic energy parties," said Green party chairwoman Claudia Roth.
Although a majority of the 800 delegates who attended the conference ultimately voted to support the Merkel timetable, a vocal minority argued that the Chancellor could not be trusted and the Green party should push for an accelerated phase-out by 2017.
"If Merkel did not once have the time or the courage or whatever to negotiate with us, then she has not earned our support," said Gesine Agena, spokeswoman for the Green party's youth organization.
A bi-partisan consensus is evolving to completely phase out nuclear energy
Agena said that there were three federal elections before the 2022 phase-out date and that "nothing is irreversible here."
"Every day that nuclear plants continue to operate is a day too long," Agena continued.
Green party parliamentary chief Jürgen Trittin, however, argued that 2022 was currently the earliest, politically feasible date for the nuclear phase-out.
"Everyone who is for 2017 has to vote for 2022 and not for 2040 - that is what this vote is all about," Trittin said.
"How believable would it be if we voted against our own proposals?" he said.
Clash over renewables
The Green party rejected the Merkel government's plans for a switch over to renewable energy sources as insufficient.
"The Green party naturally will never ever support such irresponsible and futureless nonsense," Roth said.
She went on to say that from 2013 on, after the next federal elections, the move toward environment friendly electricity has to be expedited.
Trittin said that the Greens will continue to fight against the reduction of security standards at Germany's nuclear plants.
Should the Greens assume the reigns of government in 2013, they will push for a stop to the construction of an atomic waste storage site at Gorleben in the northern state of Lower Saxony, he said.
Trittin also cautioned against speculation of a possible coalition government with Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats.
"We don't want to go into a coalition with them, instead we want to completely unseat them from power," he said.
Author: Spencer Kimball (Reuters, dpa, AFP)
Editor: Andreas Illmer