Merkel plans 15-year life extension for nuclear plants


THE LIFE of Germany’s nuclear power plants will be extended by up to 15 years under a deal agreed between energy companies and the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Germany’s energy giants will pay €15 billion to fund research into renewable energy and Berlin will, in return, set aside a 2000 agreement forced by the Schröder government to wind down all nuclear energy plants by 2025.

Dr Merkel welcomed the weekend deal, shutting the last plant down in 2040, as an important step in guaranteeing German energy security.

Opposition parties and environmental groups accused her of caving into the nuclear energy lobby.

“This is a revolution in energy production,” said Dr Merkel, calling the extension a “reasonable technical solution”.

The German leader, who is a former environment minister, opposed the exit deal on the grounds that the renewables sector was not in a position to fill the energy gap that would be left by the end of nuclear energy.

To settle debate on the matter, Dr Merkel’s government commissioned a report into nuclear energy, but the results were filled with variables and considered inconclusive.

The deal reached at the weekend would, she said, ensure that nuclear energy was merely a “bridge” to Germany becoming a centre of clean, green energy production.

“We’ve agreed that older nuclear plants will receive an extension of eight years and newer ones operating with different technical standards will get a 14-year extension,” said environment minister Norbert Roettgen after 12 hours of talks on Sunday.

“We have agreed a timetable into the renewable energy era.”

Germany has 17 nuclear plants, located in five of the country’s 16 federal states. A recent survey suggested that 57 per cent of Germans were opposed to extending the life of nuclear power plants.

Unlike many European neighbours, Germany has not given permission in recent years for the construction of new nuclear plants.

The nuclear energy deal is far from signed and sealed. It is likely to face fierce opposition if it goes for a vote in the upper house of parliament, the Bundesrat, which represents the federal states.

Dr Merkel lost her majority there earlier this year and her officials are reportedly working to draft the law in such a way as to bypass the upper house.

That has angered the opposition Social Democrats (SPD) who, a decade ago, agreed the nuclear exit deal with their Green Party junior coalition partners.

The two parties have vowed to fight the law if it goes to a vote in the Bundesrat and to go to court if it doesn’t. “This is a black day for energy production,” said SPD leader Sigmar Gabriel, environment minister in Dr Merkel’s last grand coalition administration.

“People will not accept the chancellery becoming a field office of the nuclear lobby.”

Green Party co-leader Jürgen Trittin called the deal a “multi-billion gift” to Germany’s four large energy companies.