EU official: Europe must consider nuclear-free future

Merkel puts closure of 17 plants on hold; EU Energy Commissioner says bloc may move away from nuclear energy after Japan crisis.

Guenther Oettinger (R) 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Guenther Oettinger (R) 311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
BERLIN - Nuclear experts from the European Union meeting on Tuesday in Brussels must consider whether the bloc can move away from nuclear energy one day, EU Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger said.
Oettinger called the meeting to coordinate EU policy in the light of Japan's nuclear crisis, and as Germany suspended a planned extension of the lifespan of its nuclear power plants.
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"We must also raise the question of if we in Europe, in the foreseeable future, can secure our energy needs without nuclear energy," Oettinger told Germany's ARD television.
Chancellor Angela Merkel announced on Monday that last year's decision to prolong the operation of Germany's 17 nuclear plants beyond their planned closure dates would be put on hold for three months.
Oettinger said Tuesday's meeting, at which energy ministers from EU states will meet power companies and oversight authorities, should address the impact of Germany's decision.
"When a large member state like Germany reexamines atomic energy this can have consequences at the European level," said Oettinger, Germany's EU commissioner. "We must coordinate what is important for us at a European level."
"If we in Germany are examining nuclear plants from the '80s and '90s, we must also raise the question of whether the security check should be done for all atomic plants in Europe," he added.
Austria called on Monday for European nuclear power plants to undergo stress tests to reassure people worried by the crisis in Japan, where engineers are scrambling to avert a meltdown at a stricken nuclear plant days after an earthquake and tsunami.