Germany reaffirms nuclear retreat

 

A MONTH after her spectacular U-turn on nuclear energy, Chancellor Angela Merkel yesterday gave her officials six weeks to formulate a new national power plan for renewable and gas energy.

After regional election losses thanks to public anxiety over Fukushima, the chancellor admitted yesterday the days of nuclear power in Germany were numbered.

“We all want out of nuclear energy as soon as possible and make the switch to supplying renewable energy,” said Dr Merkel, adding there “is political will to speed things up”.

Six months ago, the German leader mothballed an existing plan to wind down nuclear power plants by 2022. Dr Merkel said it was necessary to extend the life of nuclear plants for another decade beyond that date at least to serve as a “bridging technology” until the renewables sector matured.

Everything changed after Fukushima, when the German leader moved quickly to close seven ageing nuclear plants to permit security tests. They are unlikely to return to the national grid.

Ms Merkel summoned governors of all federal states that have nuclear plants to Berlin yesterday and agreed to seal a deal by June.

Most details of the plan have yet to be drawn up, but a draft has plans for a €5 billion programme to boost renewable energy production. It is likely to include new legislation to speed up planning for renewable energy facilities.

Germany already generates some 17 per cent of its electricity from renewables, a total it wants to increase to 40 per cent by 2020.

Shares in Germany’s big four energy companies fell yesterday in otherwise buoyant trading as investors reacted to the uncertainty. They have launched a legal challenge to the shutdown of the seven plants and have stopped paying into a renewable energy research fund established last October.