Germany's Merkel vows 'measured' nuclear exit

Mar 17, 2011
The nuclear power plant Neckarwestheim of power giant EnBW in Neckarwestheim, southern Germany. Chancellor Angela Merkel vowed that Germany would speed up the transition to renewable energy as Europe's top economy mulled a "measured exit" from nuclear power after the events in Japan.

Chancellor Angela Merkel vowed Thursday that Germany would speed up the transition to renewable energy as Europe's top economy mulled a "measured exit" from nuclear power after the events in Japan.

"We want to reach the age of as soon as possible. That is our goal," the chancellor told parliament during a fiery speech that drew frequent opposition jeers, indicating the depth of passion over the issue.

Merkel, a former environment minister, called for a "measured exit" from nuclear power and said "everything would be put under the microscope" during a three-month study to consider the future of in Germany.

On Monday, she announced a three-month moratorium on plans approved last year to postpone by more than a decade, until the mid-2030s, when the last of Germany's 17 nuclear reactors are turned off.

"We cannot and should not just go back to business as usual," Merkel told parliament.

On Tuesday, she ordered the temporary shutdown of Germany's seven oldest nuclear reactors while authorities conduct safety probes. At least one was mothballed for good.

"When the apparently impossible happens in such a highly developed country as Japan ... then the whole situation changes," she said.

In a desperate bid to cool fuel roads and prevent a catastrophic radiation release, Japanese military helicopters were on Thursday blasting the Fukushima northeast of Tokyo with water.

Fears of a nuclear meltdown in Japan have grown since Friday's deadly earthquake and resulting tsunami.

Merkel added that switching to renewable energy would require a "broad consensus" in society and in parliament.

The Social Democrats (SPD) and ecologist Greens vociferously shouted their opposition in parliament, concerned that the moratorium will be no more than a brief delay in the country's nuclear progress.

"We want to go back to a nuclear exit in 2020," said SPD leader Sigmar Gabriel.

Merkel said she was confident that the economic impact of the disaster on the tottering global recovery would be relatively contained.

Although the economic fallout is "incalculable", she said: "I do not fear significant damage for the world economy."

"However, and I want to emphasise this, we will be working with our international partners to see how we can best minimise the impact," she added.

But if the economic consequences are difficult to foresee, the political fallout for Merkel of the heated nuclear debate could well be highly damaging.

Polls consistently show that nuclear power is unpopular in the country and protests against it regularly attract large crowds.

More than 100,000 people turned out on Monday to call for the closure of the country's nuclear facilities across more than 450 towns and cities, according to anti-nuclear campaigners.

In a separate protest on Saturday, tens of thousands formed a 45-kilometre (28-mile) human chain between a nuclear plant and Stuttgart. The demo was planned beforehand, but events in Japan swelled numbers.

It took place in the southwestern state of Baden-Wuerttemberg, where on March 27, Merkel's centre-right Christian Democrats (CDU) face losing power after 58 years in charge in a vital state election.

The SPD in Baden-Wuerttemberg have vowed to switch off the state's two oldest nuclear power stations by 2020 if they win the election. Polls suggest a tight race.

Gabriel accused Merkel of "electioneering" ahead of the vote.

Explore further: Ambitious EU targets for renewable energies make economic sense

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Gustav
5 / 5 (2) Mar 17, 2011
They will only end up buying energy from France and Poland. Even if they pockmark their whole country with windmills, they still won't have enough energy for their Mercedes, BMW, VW, Siemens and EADS factories--not to mention their railways and steelworks in Ruhrgebiet.
Royale
5 / 5 (1) Mar 17, 2011
When geologists say: "there's an 80% chance that ::city:: will have an earthquake in the next 10 years..." take a hint and don't build a power plant there.
But everyone needs to stop flipping out about this. Think about it, how many plants are operating in the world? How many have melted down? Sure, let's go alternative where we can but lets not build more coal plants EVER! I'd much rather have nuclear power if it means no more coal.
epsi00
1 / 5 (4) Mar 17, 2011
Well, Germany can close all its nuclear plants and it won't prevent it from suffering consequences from a meltdown in France, UK or Poland or any other country in Europe. If a global solution is not found, individual countries can't do much. But we have to start dismantling this industry somewhere, one country at a time.
If we don't do it, we will end up with 10 toes, horns and no brain soon.
PaulieMac
5 / 5 (5) Mar 17, 2011
If we don't do it, we will end up with 10 toes


Umm.. How many toes have you got now?? ;-)
ereneon
5 / 5 (3) Mar 17, 2011
Last time I checked, there isn't much of an earthquake risk in Germany, so this whole thing just doesn't really make sense... Actually it's impressive that there have been so few nuclear problems in Japan given the magnitude and frequency of the earthquakes that happen there.
Gawad
3.7 / 5 (3) Mar 17, 2011
Well, Germany can close all its nuclear plants and it won't prevent it from suffering consequences from a meltdown in France, UK or Poland or any other country in Europe....we have to start dismantling this industry somewhere, one country at a time...we will end up with 10 toes, horns and no brain soon.
This is a typical irrational knee jerk reaction. As other commentors have pointed out, how often has this happend in Japan, given they are such a seismically active country? So what now? Can't drill for oil because of the Gulf accident, can't build coal plants for fear of climate change, can't build fission plants for fear of Chernobyl or Fukushima, c'ant go biodiesel for fear of causing food shortages...but somehow you think the US, Europe, China, Japan and the rest of the world will somehow be able to meet their energy needs with wind farms and solar panels? I've got bad news for you: not gonna happen. You're just going to need a better energy density than that. Thorium anyone?
hush1
not rated yet Mar 17, 2011
There you have it. Translation with agenda.
"Measured exit". Vermessener Aussstieg.

Of course, we are all raised multilingual and immune against translations with agenda.

And, of course, we will never know the author of the posted article.
Modernmystic
3 / 5 (2) Mar 17, 2011
Let 'em go back into the jungle. One less country to worry about competing with above the level of Somalia...
Modernmystic
3 / 5 (2) Mar 17, 2011
If we don't do it, we will end up with 10 toes


Umm.. How many toes have you got now?? ;-)


Priceless :-)
frajo
not rated yet Mar 18, 2011
"Measured exit". Vermessener Aussstieg.
Original German wording: "Ausstieg mit Augenmass". While I don't know any literal translation for "Augenmass" the meaning of the wording is "well considered exit".

"Vermessener Ausstieg", however, means something along "impudent exit" which is quite different from "Ausstieg with Augenmass".
antialias
5 / 5 (1) Mar 20, 2011
Don't believe her. Mere months before this 'moratorium' she and her party overturned the plan to shut down all nuclear reactors by 2021.

It's just a PR-ploy to survive the critical elections held in a couple of provinces this week and the next. After the 'moratorium' she'll just revert to her old, lobby-bought convictions.