Angela Merkel’s government has decided to phase out nuclear power by 2022, in a reversal of its previous policy. German commentators are split over the wisdom of the decision, with one newspaper comparing the move to the fall of the Berlin Wall and another saying it will harm future generations.
“This is nothing more and nothing less than a revolution in energy supply,” said Chancellor Angela Merkel. It was September 2010, and she was referring to her government’s newly minted energy strategy. That plan included extending the operating lives of Germany’s 17 nuclear plants, which had been scheduled to go offline by 2021. All of this had been intended to help Germany meet its ambitious goals for reducing climate-killing CO2 emissions.
But on Monday, less than nine months later, the German government announced a new energy plan that could also be fairly described as a revolution — even if it represents a 180-degree reversal of the administration’s previous policy.
In marathon talks that went into the early hours of Monday, the government hammered out the details of its plans to phase out nuclear power. The new strategy foresees all Germany’s reactors going offline by 2021 if possible and 2022 at the latest. Eight plants which are currently temporarily offline will be shut down immediately. The phaseout will be accompanied by a massive increase in the use of renewable energy, and the government intends to pass a law making it easier to construct the new energy infrastructure that will be needed.
Merkel’s U-turn on nuclear power happened in the wake of the Fukushima disaster, with the chancellor quickly realizing the impact the accident would have on attitudes to nuclear power in Germany. A majority of Germans oppose atomic energy.
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