According to an inside government source cited by Munich daily Süddeutsche Zeitung, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s centre-right coalition is considering waiting to turn off the last reactor 30 years later than the 2020 cutoff date as decided by her predecessor’s centre-left government in 2001.
Such a move would go against Environment Minister Norbert Röttgen, who has advocated a nuclear power extension of just eight years, or until 40 percent of country’s energy could supposedly be derived from renewable sources. The minister has also said that the plants were not built to operate for so long, explaining they were intended to run “not for 60, but 40 years,” the paper reported.
Current law stipulates that plants must be shut down after they have provided 32 years of service, which would put the final closure of the country’s 17 reactors at around 2022.
There is currently no research that proves reactors can safely operate for 60 years, the paper said.
“But there is no preliminary decision,” Röttgen told the paper. “This is merely about preliminary calculations.”
The coalition made up of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats and the pro-business Free Democrats plans to finalise its energy plan in October.
While atomic energy advocates welcomed the move, telling the paper it would reduce energy costs for consumers, the opposition is outraged over what the ruling coalition is considering.
“Those who extend atomic reactor usage harm the development of renewable energy,” deputy leader of the centre-left Social Democrats’ parliamentary group Ulrich Kelber told the paper.
Head of the SPD and former Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel told broadcaster Deutschlandradio that the coalition had “lost its senses.”
“It’s brutal lobbyism,” he said. “It’s really about the fact that operators earn €1 million per day for running an old nuclear plant.”
Environmentalist Green party parliamentary group deputy leader Bärbel Höhn called the option “irresponsible for security policy.”
Meanwhile broadcaster ARD reported on Friday that a new parliamentary committee has been formed to investigate how former Chancellor Helmut Kohl’s administration chose the controversial underground site Gorleben for Germany’s nuclear waste storage.
Gorleben, which is still being explored pending approval for permanent nuclear storage, has been in the news frequently in the last year amid allegations of safety shortcomings and illegal development, has spurred massive protest from environmentalists.