German nuclear dispute fueled by Japan mishap

Saturday`s explosion destroyed a building housing the reactor.

Berlin: An explosion at a Japanese nuclear
power plant has given new fuel to a long-running dispute over
the technology`s future in Germany, where thousands on Saturday
demonstrated against plans to extend the life of the country`s
nuclear power stations.

Organizers said tens of thousands formed a human chain
between the Neckarwestheim nuclear plant and the southwestern
city of Stuttgart, which are 45 kilometers appart some waving
yellow flags with the slogan "Nuclear power no thanks." Police
didn`t immediately give a figure.

The demonstration was planned long before the
post-earthquake blast at Japan`s Fukushima Dai-ichi plant, but
the fears of possible disaster gave an added focus to
opponents of the technology in Germany.

Today`s explosion destroyed a building housing the
reactor, but a radiation leak was decreasing despite fears of
a meltdown from damage caused by a powerful earthquake and
tsunami, officials in Japan said.

Germany`s government last year decided to extend the
life of its 17 nuclear plans for an average 12 extra years. A
previous government had said it wanted them all shut by 2021.

While Germany unlike some of its European Union partners has
no plans to build any new plants, the extension was divisive.

The mishap in Japan, which comes two weeks before a
closely fought state election in the region where Saturday`s
protest was held, prompted new criticism from the opposition.

Events at Fukushima "show that, even in a high-tech country
like Japan that is equipped for all eventualities, nuclear
power is an uncontrollable, highly dangerous, risky
technology," the leadership of the opposition Greens said in a

Matthias Miersch, a lawmaker with the main opposition
Social Democrats, urged the government to scrap immediately
the decision to extend German nuclear plants` lives. The third
opposition party, the Left Party, called for a worldwide
moratorium on expanding nuclear power capacity.

Nuclear energy has been unpopular in Germany since an
explosion at a nuclear reactor at Chernobyl, Ukraine, in 1986,
sent a cloud of radiation over much of Europe.

Chancellor Angela Merkel, however, has argued that
Germany needs to keep nuclear energy for now as a "bridging
technology" until it has developed more renewable power

Her deputy, Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, today
pushed aside questions about the government`s nuclear


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