Germany votes to end its nuclear power program

German Chancellor Merkel: This is more than consensus for a nuclear exit, this is consensus for a switch to renewable energy.

By REUTERS
June 30, 2011 14:48
2 minute read.
Angela Merkel

Merkel reuters 311. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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BERLIN - Germany's lower house of parliament overwhelmingly approved an exit from nuclear energy by 2022, backing a U-turn by Chancellor Angela Merkel driven by Japan's Fukushima crisis.

Opposition lawmakers from the Social Democrats (SPD) and Green Party joined deputies from Merkel's center-right coalition in supporting the measure on the third and final reading of the government's nuclear exit bill.

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German industry and Germany's neighbors fear the chancellor's change of heart on nuclear plants -- late last year she called them safe and advocated keeping them open longer -- could imperil the power supply in Europe's biggest economy.

European Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger, speaking to a conference in Berlin as the Bundestag (lower house) debated a package of power laws nearby, said Germany's neighbors were worried about its program of nuclear shutdowns by 2022.

He said closing the oldest eight of Germany's 17 nuclear plants after a tsunami hit Japan's Fukushima plant in March had already reduced the total European power supply by 2-3 percent, "which was manageable; the headlines were bigger than the cut".

But he added: "Europe must do what it can so the process of creeping de-industrialization does not proceed." He urged Berlin to coordinate the nuclear exit with its European Union partners to ensure stable power supplies and stop costs from rising.

Merkel, a conservative with one eye on her own coalition's declining popularity and growing support for the Greens, has dismissed such worries, telling pro-nuclear neighbor France that Germany can get its power via renewable technology.



"This is more than consensus for a nuclear exit, this is consensus for a switch to renewable energy," she told the Bundestag, which was due to vote on a package of eight laws after the debate ends at around noon local time (1000 GMT).

"We want to remain an industrial nation and sustain growth. But we want to organize that growth so that we guarantee quality of life for coming generations as well," she said, adding that solar, wind and bio-fuel technology would provide the key.

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