Live TV debate could yield solution to nuclear-free future in Germany | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 28.04.2011
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Live TV debate could yield solution to nuclear-free future in Germany

The German ethics commission, set up after the Fukushima disaster, has been discussing the future of nuclear power in a live television broadcast. In May, the commission will present its findings to the government.

Klaus Töpfer and Matthias Kleiner

Töpfer (l.) and Kleiner are heading the commission

A specially-convened ethics commission to discuss how long Germany needs to arrive at a nuclear-free future continued its work on Thursday.

At a meeting in Berlin, the commission heard from around 30 experts from the energy industry, consumer groups, the scientific community and environmental organizations. The day-long session was broadcast live on German television and the Internet, giving the public a sense of how a secure energy supply could be guaranteed without nuclear power.

"By holding it in the public domain, the commission wants to demonstrate that the debate should be transparent," said Matthias Kleiner, President of the German Research Foundation. "There are no easy answers."

Chancellor Angela Merkel set up the ethics commission following the nuclear disaster at Fukushima in Japan. The commission, headed by former Environment Minister Klaus Töpfer and scientist Matthias Kleiner, will put forward its recommendations to the federal government on May 28.

Johannes Teyssen, head of E.ON

Johannes Teyssen is urging caution on a nuclear pull-out

Töpfer, from Merkel's ruling Christian Democrats, told the commission that even before the Chernobyl nuclear disaster 25 years ago, the German public had considered nuclear energy to be a transitional technology.

Cost of change

But the head of the German energy company E.ON warned the commission against a rash phase-out of nuclear power.

"Everyone knows an immediate pull out is impossible anyway," Johannes Teyssen told the commission. He said atomic power was necessary as a bridging technology in order to allow a smooth transition to renewable energy sources.

"You can't simply make this bridge shorter or narrower at will, because the valley cannot be made any smaller," Teyssen said.

Teyssen also warned that switching to alternative energy would have a negative impact on consumer prices, and on the environment.

However, energy expert Henrik Paulitz from the anti-nuclear organization IPPNW disagreed. He told the commission it wouldn't be necessary to build new coal and gas power stations. Paulitz claimed there were already enough plants to cope with the power demand even without nuclear backup.

The Fukushima reactor exploding

The images of the explosions at the Fukushima reactor alarmed the German public

Learning from Japan

Germany has had to reassess its protection against nuclear disaster, according to the interior minister of the western German state of Rhineland-Palatinate, following the dramatic events at Japan's Fukushima reactor after it was damaged by an earthquake and tsunami in March.

"Today, we must assess the risks differently than we would have done before Fukushima," said Karl-Peter Bruch from the opposition German Social Party. "We have to analyze precisely what we need in terms of emergency shelter and protection suits and how we would evacuate a town if a number of tragic events were happening simultaneously."

Author: Joanna Impey (epd, KNA, Reuters)
Editor: Rob Turner

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