Röttgen favours an extension of only eight years, but he is being defied by the parliamentary faction of his Christian Democratic Union, along with the Economy Ministry and the southern German states, who all want operational lifespans extended by an average of 14 years.
Economic policy spokesman Joachim Pfeiffer said, "Röttgen should recognize that a majority of the party think that a longer lifespan is absolutely necessary to guarantee a safe energy supply."
Röttgen's predecessor, and now head of the opposition Social Democratic Party Sigmar Gabriel, commented, "Either Röttgen is too weak to assert himself against the nuclear-fans in his party, or going back to a nuclear power economy is his personal goal, despite all his sermons." Either way, Gabriel argued, he is not suited to be Environment Minister.
The SPD boss said that if the "hardliners in the parliamentary faction and the states" get their way, Röttgen will have failed completely.
Green party leader Claudia Roth forecast a "very hot autumn" for the coalition if they tried to extend nuclear power lifespans for 14 years. "If you sow atomic wind, then you will reap a people's storm," she said.
Roth predicted that tens of thousands would take to the streets in protest, and millions of voters in 2011 state elections would vote against this "madness." The Green party also promised it would go to the Constitutional Court if the government attempted to bypass the Bundesrat in order to get the necessary legislation through.
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The opposition remains confident that the lack of a majority in the Bundesrat, the upper house of the German parliament, will scupper any chance of an extension.