Germany: Protests force nuclear closures


Facing public anger and concern over the nuclear meltdown unfolding in Japan, German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced temporary shutdown of several nuclear reactors.

On March 12, more than 60,000 anti-nuclear protesters in the south-western state of Baden-Wuerttemberg formed a 45 kilometre human chain from Stuttgart to the Neckarwestheim 1 nuclear plant.

Smaller protests took place in more than 450 towns and cities across Germany, anti-nuclear organisation Irradiated said. More protests are planned for March 26.

Merkel responded by announcing on March 15 that all 17 German nuclear plants would undergo safety checks.

Of these, the oldest seven — all of which began operating before 1980 — would be shut down for three months.

Two of the seven older plants are already shut down — one for maintenance, while the other was taken offline in 2007 after an accident.

The move was criticised by anti-nuclear groups and opposition parties as an inadequate, cynical move, designed to arrest the decline in support for Merkel’s ruling Christian Democratic Union (CDU).

Merkel’s support for nuclear power is well known. In October, Merkel’s government reversed the standing German policy of phasing out nuclear power by 2021 — extending the life of the country’s nuclear reactors by an average of 12 years.

Opposition parties have demanded that the seven old stations be immediately closed for good. Die Linke (The Left) has called for a worldwide moratorium on expanding nuclear power.

Even Merkel’s environment minister, Norbert Rottgen, told Stern magazine that Germany should abandon nuclear power sooner than currently proposed.

Merkel’s increasingly unstable government faces six state elections this year, including three — Saxony-Anhalt, Rhineland-Palatinate and Baden-Wuerttemberg — in March.

Her ruling coalition has already lost control of the upper house after defeats in recent state elections, but a loss in Baden-Wuerttemberg would be a heavy blow.

The CDU has ruled the state since 1953, but looks increasingly likely to lose power to a coalition of the Greens and the Social Democrats (SPD).

Germany gets more than a quarter of its energy from nuclear power, but it has been overwhelmingly unpopular since the Chernobyl disaster in 1986.

Three minor nuclear accidents have occurred in Germany — in 1975, 1986 and 1987.


Previously Germany was set to retire its 17 remaining reactors and replace them with 25 brown coal power stations. Way to go shooting yourself in the foot. We don't have space based solar power, or fusion, or zero point, or anything else - they're decades away and complex beyond imagination and cost incalculable. And you can't provide base load on the good intentions of wind or photovoltaic cells. If it is a choice between coal and nuclear my vote is for the one that doesn't emit.