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Germany to exit nuclear by 2022

posted 31 May 2011, 07:27 by Mpelembe   [ updated 31 May 2011, 07:29 ]
After deciding to switch off all its nuclear power stations by 2022, Germany says this will turn Europe's largest economy into a frontrunner for creating renewable energy and jobs.

GERMANY-NUCLEAR - Time's running out for the Biblis nuclear power plant in Germany.

It and the country's other 16 nuclear reactors will be closed by 2022.

The Fukushima disaster in Japan led Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition government to do a rapid policy U-turn, only nine months after Merkel said she was going to extend the plants' lifespan by over a decade.

Now the government has decided to phase out nuclear over the next ten years.

German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, saying:

"This path is a big challenge for Germany but it also means huge opportunities for future generations. We believe that our country can become a frontrunner for the creation of renewable energy and as the first large industrial nation, we can create such a change towards highly efficient and renewable energies, with all its opportunities for export, developments and technology which create jobs."

The decision could still face opposition from utilities companies.

But nuclear power has long been unpopular in Germany and is opposed by most voters.

Just hours before the government made the decision - over 150 000 people took to the streets of several German cities to march against atomic energy.

Nuclear provided almost a quarter of Germany's overall power before the seven oldest stations were shut down in March in the wake of Japan's earthquake and tsunami.

The country's Ethics Commission was also set up at that time to review urgently Germany's entire energy strategy - it's jointly led by Matthias Kleiner, who's in favour of a nuclear exit.

SOUNDBITE: Matthias Kleiner, Co-Head of Germany's Ethics Commission, saying (German):

"We firmly believe this can be achieved within a decade, and we also believe a whole range of measures are necessary, but will be successful. Personally, I asked myself: who else if not us is in a position to achieve this great community act together."

As Germany looks to alternative power to replace nuclear from its energy mix - the ruling coalition is sensitive to accusations it may increase dependence on highly polluting brown coal.

So part of its nuclear exit includes a plan to cut electricity use by 10 percent and to double the share of renewable energy resources - like wind and solar - to 35 percent.

Joanna Partridge, Reuters