German Prez inks act on extending life span of 17 N-reactors

German President has signed into law a controversial legislation on extending the life span of the country`s 17 atomic reactors on an average by 12 years.

Last Updated: Dec 09, 2010, 15:59 PM IST

Berlin: Rejecting appeals from opposition
parties and environmental groups, German President Christian
Wulff has signed into law a controversial legislation on
extending the life span of the country`s 17 atomic reactors on
an average by 12 years.

The opposition parties have deplored the legislation
as "unconstitutional" because it was passed by Chancellor
Angela Merkel`s centre-right coalition at the end of last
month without a vote in the Bundesrat, the upper house of
parliament.

They charged the government of "deliberately avoiding"
a debate in the upper house, where it has no majority since
May, and asked the President to block it.

But, Wulff has no misgivings about the constitutional
validity of the legislation.

"After intensive and thorough examination of all
constitutional aspects, he signed the bill on Wednesday," the
presidential office said in a press statement.

Soon after its signing, the opposition parties vowed
to carry out their threat to take the issue to the country`s
highest court.

The new law is unconstitutional not only because of
bypassing the Bundesrat, but it also "lowers the level of
security standards" for atomic reactors, Parliamentary leader
of the Green Party, Juergen Trittin said.

The Social Democratic Party (SPD) criticised the
government for reversing the decision taken by an SPD-led
government to phase out all reactors by 2020 and sidestepping
the upper house in passing the legislation.

Five federal states ruled by the SPD will jointly
challenge the new law at the Federal Constitutional Court,
according to Kurt Beck, State Premier of Rhineland Palatinate.

Recent opinion polls showed that more than 60 per cent
of the German public are against extending the life of the
reactors. The new law, which is scheduled to come into force at
the beginning of next year, will allow Germany`s seven older
reactors, which have been operating since 1975, to generate
electricity for eight more years while the remaining plants
will be shut down after 14 years.

It is estimated that some of the reactors will remain
in operation at least until 2035.

President Wulff also singed an accompanying
legislation on introducing a nuclear fuel levy on the
country`s four major energy giants operating the reactors,
which is expected to bring an annual revenue of 2.3 billion
euros over a period of six years.

In return for extending the life of the reactors, the
energy companies pledged to pay up to 16.9 billion euros into
a special fund for developing renewable energy sources.

The government defended its new "energy concept"
saying extending the life of the reactors and the nuclear fuel
tax will bring a total revenue of around 30 billion euros.

This support from the atom industry is very crucial to
realise the government`s goal of increasing the share of
renewable energy in electricity supply to 80 per cent by 2050,
said German Environment Minister Norbert Roettgen.

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

PTI