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5/30/2011 New York Times, Germany to Halt Nuclear Power Production by 2022

Germany to Halt Nuclear Power Production by 2022 By JUDY DEMPSEY and JACK EWING, New York Times, May 30, 2011 BERLIN — The German government agreed on Monday morning to phase out nuclear power by 2022 in a move that could have far reaching consequences for Europe’s largest economy. “It’s definite,” Environment Minister Norbert Röttgen said after marathon talks held at the chancellery. “The latest end of the last three nuclear plants is 2022.” The government said the country’s oldest nuclear power plants will remain permanently closed. Seven plants were shut down in March after the in Japan and one plant had been taken off the grid earlier. The government intends to phase out the remaining nine plants according to their age with the older facilities shutting down over the next few years and the newest ones by in 2022.

Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has been trying to cope with a sharp shift in public attitudes toward nuclear power since the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi plant after the March 11 Japanese earthquake and tsunami was reacting to a report submitted Monday by the so-called Ethics Commission for Secure Energy. “We want the electricity of the future to be safe, but also to remain reliable and affordable,” she said in a statement on the government Web site.

Plans to withdraw from nuclear energy are likely to be popular with the German public — the reactors had already been scheduled to be taken out of service by 2036 in the face of widespread aversion to nuclear power — but will be greeted apprehensively by German manufacturers, who fear that the cost of energy could rise.

On Friday, state environment ministers agreed that the seven older nuclear power plants, that were taken out of service after the Japanese disaster, should remain shut down. The commission endorsed that recommendation, and said the other 10 plants should be phased out gradually.

However, in a report Friday that illustrated a national debate that is likely to ensue, the federal agency that regulates the power industry said that without the seven plants Germany could have trouble coping 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 report submitted Monday to Ms. Merkel said 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 in a 48-page report. “Only a clearly delineated goal can provide the necessary planning and investment security,” the commission said.

“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, 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.