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Germany to extend life of nuclear reactors

Anti-nuclear demonstration following Merkel's decision to extend life of nuclear reactors
Anti-nuclear demonstration following Merkel's decision to extend life of nuclear reactors Photo: AFP

Germany said it would extend the life of its nuclear reactors by an average of 12 years Monday following a series of talks aimed at re-shaping the energy policy of Europe’s top economy.

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Senior politicians took part in a 12-hour meeting that led to the decision that some 17 nuclear plants would remain operational until the 2030’s.

The lives of older plants will be extended by eight years and those of newer ones by 14 years, Environment Minister Norbert Roettgen said.

Angela Merkel’s predecessor Gerhard Schroeder had decided to shut down the reactors by around 2020.

The decision was criticised by Greenpeace and other environmental groups as well as Germany’s Green Party and Austria’s environment minister, Niki Berlakovich.

Chancellor Angela Merkel argued that renewable sources are not developed enough to abandon nuclear power, as Germany seeks to reduce its dependence on nuclear power.

Roettgen added extra profits made from the life extension of nuclear utilities would have to contribute to developing renewable energy.

A debate raged in public and parliament over how long to extend the life of the reactors, as a majority of Germans oppose the idea of postponing the date the country goes nuclear-free, according to recent opinion polls.

The chancellor, a former environment minister herself, had earlier hinted that her preference was for an extension of 10-15 years. But not everyone in her coalition agreed.

A government-commissioned report last month stated thatb without nuclear power, Germany could not reach its target of reducing CO2 emissions by 80 per cent in 2050 from 1990 levels.

Greenpeace accuses Merkel of yielding to the powerful nuclear energy lobby.

Another issue in the debate is how to make energy companies such as RWE, Vattenfall and E.ON pay for the extension of their plants and ensure a greater contribution to the future of renewable energy sources in Germany.

As part of an 80 billion euro austerity programme for the period 2011 to 2014, Berlin wanted to tap energy firms. But the utility companies refused the nuclear tax which was consequently removed from the austerity package the cabinet approved on Wednesday.

Merkel may try to get the change through without a vote in the upper house of parliament, where she lost majority earlier this year.

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