Germany pulls the plug on nuclear power

The German government and leading electricity-generating companies have signed an agreement on the termination of nuclear energy use.

Among the signatories to the agreement in Berlin on 11 June were Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, the Environment Minister Jürgen Trittin, a Green Party member and the chairmen of four principal German power producers: e.on, RWE, Energie Baden-Württemberg, and HEW. The agreement states that the nation’s 19 nuclear plants will be closed after they have completed 32 years of fuel production, meaning closures from 2003 to 2020.

The deal also stipulates that if plants, which currently supply a third of German electricity, do exceed their defined service life, then another power plant must be shut down earlier and constitutes a means of resolving the “difficult problems posed by the disposal of nuclear waste on the basis of a broad public consensus”. The planned termination of nuclear fuel reprocessing and the creation of temporary waste storage sites at the nuclear power plant sites will greatly reduce the transport of nuclear waste, the government says. At the same time, there will be fair burden-sharing among the state governments. Whereas in the past Lower Saxony

and North Rhine-Westphalia have had to assume the full burden of nuclear waste disposal, in the future each nuclear power plant will have to make its own contribution until a permanent storage site is available.

The parties concerned also said they will continue to work together on an environmentally acceptable form of electricity generation in Germany that will also be competitive on the European market, inferring the promotion of combined-heat-and-power plants.

Media reports have suggested, however, that neither the electricity generators nor environmentalists are happy with the agreement. E.on has said that it did not agree with the phase outs and will lobby a future, more nuclear-friendly government to reverse the decision. “It was more of a pragmatic compromise than anything,” a spokesman reportedly said of the deal.

Greenpeace is also disappointed, saying that even in 2020 “the same level of atomic power will be being produced as it was when it was first introduced.”

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