German coalition agrees to close nuclear plants by 2022
Germany's ruling coalition agreed early Monday on a plan to shut down the last of its nuclear power stations by 2022, government sources said, dpa reported.
Most of the plants are to be offline by 2021, coalition sources told the German Press Agency dpa, but the three plants were to serve as a backup in case of energy shortages and would only be shut down a year later.
Party leaders had met at Chancellor Angela Merkel's office in Berlin to hammer out a deal to close down all nuclear power stations within a decade, bowing to the nation's fear of a reprise of Japan's Fukushima disaster.
Business supporters of the centre-right Merkel government had urged caution, warning power shortages could cripple industry.
The agreement emerged after 12 hours of negotiations between Merkel and the leaders of the three government parties - Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) , the pro-businees Free Democrats (FDP).
The government also mulls keeping keeping 2,000 megawatts of capacity, equivalent to two power stations, on standby after the shut-down date in case of emergency, an idea which experts consider difficult to put into practice.
Also involved in the talks were the chiefs of the two main opposition parties, the Social Democrats and Greens. Merkel has said she aims to draft a bipartisan policy to end a dispute that has split Germans since the 1970s.
A 17-member panel of bishops, academics and other community leaders recommended Saturday to Merkel that Germany make its nuclear exit within a decade, closing eight plants now and the other nine gradually.
The panel's detailed findings, including a programme to build gas-fired plants and wind turbines to supply the 22 per cent of German electricity that is currently nuclear-generated, are to be made public Monday. Both the CDU and FDP sustained state election losses on March 27, convincing them it was futile to promote nuclear energy as a technology to counter global warming in the face of widespread public opposition.
Legislation passed last year commits Germany to close all plants by about 2036. Polls show a big majority of Germans want a shutdown far sooner, after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in north-eastern Japan damaged the Fukushima Daiichi plant, causing to radiation leaks.
Radical anti-nuclear groups such as Greenpeace had demanded an earlier closure, claiming 2015 was feasible, arguing Germans must be taught to conserve power. Industry prefers the mid-2020s to spread out the vast conversion costs.