German Parliament vote to extend use of nuclear power

The German parliament has passed a controversial legislation that extends the life span of the country`s 17 nuclear reactors on an average by 12 years.

Updated: Oct 29, 2010, 16:08 PM IST

Berlin: The German parliament has passed a
controversial legislation that extends the life span of the
country`s 17 nuclear reactors on an average by 12 years after
a fierce debate in which the opposition accused the government
of capitulating to the powerful atomic industry.

Extending the life span of the reactors is a central
element of the centre-right coalition government`s new energy
concept, which reverses a decision by a former government to
phase out all reactors by 2020.

Under the plan, seven of the country`s older reactors,
which have been operating since 1975, will continue to
generate electricity for eight more years while the remaining
will be shut down after 14 years.

It is estimated that some of the reactors will remain in
operation until the mid-2030s.

In return, for extending the life span of the reactors,
the four major energy companies operating have pledged to pay
into a special fund for developing renewable energy sources.

The opposition parties accused the government of trying
to rush the bill through parliament bypassing the Bundesrat,
the upper house, in which it has no majority since May, and
vowed to challenge it in the country’s highest court.

They also announced plans to organise nation-wide protest
demonstrations against the government’s nuclear policy.

Sigmar Gabriel, chairman of the opposition Social
Democratic Party (SPD) described the government`s energy
concept as a "contract for the atomic industry" and said the
extension of the life of the reactors benefited only the four
major companies operating them.

It will also prevent new investments in developing
renewable energy. He also charged that the government was
dividing the society on an issue where it was already united.
Juergen Trittin, parliamentary leader of the Green Party,
said the decision to extend the life of the reactors served
only the interests of the nuclear industry.

He spoke of the government`s intention not to present the
bill to the Bundesrat as "unconstitutional" and said his party
too will take the issue to the Federal Constitutional court.
Germany`s Environment Minister Norbert Roettgen, defended
the government`s energy concept and said the government will
benefit from the additional income of the nuclear industry and
it will be used for developing renewable energy.

Without this support from the nuclear industry, the
government`s plans to increase the share of renewable energy
in the power mix to 80 per cent by 2050 cannot be realised, he
said.

"This will not only halve the use of conventional energy,
but will also reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 80 per cent",
he said.

As the parliamentarians debated the bill inside the
Bundestag, several hundred anti-nuclear campaigners formed a
human chain outside the building.

About a dozen Greenpeace activists climbed the building
housing the headquarters of Chancellor Angela Merkel`s
Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and unfurled a large poster
showing Merkel celebrating with the CEO of a major energy
company.

PTI