May 30, 2011

Germany To End Nuclear Power By 2022

Germany became the first major industrialized power to agree an end to nuclear power, with a phase-out due to be completed by 2022.

Chancellor Angela Merkel said the decision marked the start of a "fundamental" rethink of energy policy in the world's number four economy.

"We want the electricity of the future to be safer and at the same time reliable and affordable," Merkel told reporters.

"That means we must have a new approach to the supply network, energy efficiency, renewable energy and also long-term monitoring of the process," she said.

The commission found it would be variable within a decade for Germany to mothball all 17 of its nuclear reactors, eight of which are currently off the electricity grid.

Environment Minister Norbert Roettgen said the decision was "irreversible."

Seven of the plants already off-line are the country's oldest reactors. 

The eighth plant is in northern Germany and has been offline for years due to repeated technical problems.

Monday's decision made by Germany is the first major industrial power to announce plans to give up atomic energy entirely.

"We assure that the electricity supply will be ensured at all times and for all users," he pledged, without elaborating.

The environment ministers said on Friday that all 16 German regional states called for the temporary moratorium on the seven plants to be made permanent.

He said Monday that none of the eight reactors offline would be reactivated.  Six other reactors will be shut down by the end of 2021, and three more will cease operations by the end of 2022.

Environmental group Greenpeace welcomed the plans for a nuclear shutdown but lamented it would take until 2022.

"I see certain risks for Germany as a place to do business," chief executive Dieter Zetschke told the daily Bild, adding that he saw the decision as "strongly colored by emotions".

"Turning our backs on an affordable energy supply is clearly a risk."

Some coalition members called for a built-in revision clause, which could have seen the decision revisited.

The Fukushima accident in Japan sparked a renewed global debate about the safety of nuclear power, with opinions widely being different.

The U.S. and Britain announced plans to build new reactors as an alternative to producing harmful greenhouse gas emissions while ensuring a relatively cheap supply of energy.