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In Reversal, Germany to Close Nuclear Plants by 2022

Posted by in Environment, News

BERLIN — The German government agreed on Monday to phase out all nuclear power by 2022, a sharp reversal by Chancellor Angela Merkel aimed at appeasing the country’s intensified antinuclear movement. The announcement came after marathon talks held at the chancellery on a new report by the Ethics Commission for Security Energy that recommended closing all 17 of the country’s nuclear plants.

Ingo Wagner/DPA, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Anti-nuclear activists protested near the Unterweser nuclear power plant near the northern German city of Kleinensiel, on April 25, 2011.

“We want the electricity of the future to be safe, but also to remain reliable and affordable,” Mrs. Merkel said in a statement on the government Web site announcing the change.

Mrs. Merkel has been grappling with the sudden deepening of German distrust of nuclear power since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan set off the world’s worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl. Within days of the disaster, she reversed a pro-nuclear policy adopted just last year and temporarily shut down seven ofGermany’s older plants; one had been taken off line earlier.

But the move failed to persuade voters in the southwest state of Baden-Württemberg, where her party, the Christian Democrats, lost a stronghold it had held for more than five decades.

On Friday, state environment ministers agreed that the seven older plants should remain closed. The energy security commission endorsed that recommendation, and said the others should be phased out gradually.

However, the federal agency that regulates the power industry said Friday that losing even just the seven plants could make it difficult to cope with a failure in some part of the national power grid. The shutdown “brings networks to the limit of capacity,” the Federal Network Agency said.

The 48-page energy security report submitted Monday took an opposing view, saying the commission was “firmly convinced that an exit from nuclear energy can be achieved within a decade.”

Germany must make a binding national commitment, the commission said, adding, “Only a clearly delineated goal can provide the necessary planning and investment security.”

“The exit is necessary, and is recommended, in order to rule out the risks of nuclear power,” the commission said. “It is possible, because there are less risky alternatives.”

The commission added that “the exit should be designed so as not to endanger the competitiveness of industry and the economy.”

It identified wind, solar and water as alternatives, as well as geothermal energy and so-called biomass energy from waste, as alternative power sources.

Judy Dempsey reported from Berlin, and Jack Ewing from Frankfurt.

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