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Germany shutting down seven nuclear reactors

The Local · 15 Mar 2011, 16:57

Published: 15 Mar 2011 13:20 GMT+01:00
Updated: 15 Mar 2011 16:57 GMT+01:00

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"We are launching a safety review of all nuclear reactors ... with all reactors in operation since the end of 1980 set to be idled for the period of the (three-month) moratorium," Chancellor Angela Merkel said.

This covers seven nuclear reactors: Biblis A and B, Neckarwestheim, Brunsbüttel, Isar 1, Unterweser and Philippsburg 1. Germany decided a decade ago to be nuclear-free by 2020, but this target was postponed until the mid-2030s by Merkel's government last October despite strong public opposition.

Japan's government has said radiation levels near the Fukushima nuclear plant have reached levels harmful to humans, advising thousands of people to stay indoors after two explosions and a fire at the facility Tuesday.

Four of the six reactors at the plant, 250 kilometres (155 miles) northeast of Tokyo, have now overheated and sparked explosions since Friday's massive earthquake and tsunami knocked out cooling systems.

"After this moratorium, which will run until June 15... we will know how to proceed," Merkel said following crisis talks in Berlin with premiers of German states where there are nuclear plants.

She said Berlin would also use the period to discuss what to do with radioactive waste - no permanent storage site exists - boosting renewable energies, and international safety standards for nuclear power.

"Safety standards in Germany are one thing, they are important, but safety standards in Europe, being able to compare then, and international safety standards are also important," Merkel said.

Germany's older plants include one in Bavaria, two near Frankfurt and two in the southwestern state of Baden-Württemberg - where a key state election takes place on March 27, with nuclear power set to be a major issue.

Sigmar Gabriel, head of the centre-left opposition Social Democrats (SPD), called for all seven reactors to be shut down permanently.

After the moratorium, Merkel "is just going to come back and say that everything is okay and that German nuclear plants are safe," Gabriel said, accusing Merkel of "election trickery." The SPD, along with the Greens, initiated Germany's phaseout of atomic energy in 2000.

"The era of nuclear energy is finished," he said.

A survey by public broadcaster ARD published on Tuesday had 53 percent of respondents saying all reactors - which produce a quarter of Germany's power - should be taken out of service as soon as possible.

Seventy percent thought that an accident similar to that in Japan could happen in Germany, and 80 percent want Merkel to reverse the government's extension of operating times, the poll of 909 voters showed.

Story continues below…

Germans have long been uneasy about the safety of nuclear power, with shipments of nuclear waste regularly attracting angry protests and Merkel's decision sparking large-scale demonstrations last year.

On Monday large numbers of people worried about nuclear safety - more than 100,000 according to organisers - took to the streets nationwide. On Saturday people formed a 45-kilometre human chain between a nuclear plant and Baden-Württemberg's state capital Stuttgart.

Merkel says that the extension is necessary because green technologies like solar and wind power are not yet ready to fill the gap left by abandoning atomic energy.

But opponents accuse her of being motivated more by extra profits for energy firms - whose shares fell sharply on Tuesday for the second straight day - rather than concern for the environment.

AFP/The Local/mry

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

13:36 March 15, 2011 by hanskarl
I wonder if these designs are the older GE BWR Mark 1 that are considered problematic per the Nuclear Information and Resource Service.


Para 9:

"A fact sheet from the anti-nuclear advocacy group Nuclear Information and Resource Service contends that the Mark I design has design problems, and that in 1972 an Atomic Energy Commission member, Dr. Stephen Hanuaer, recommended that this type of system be discontinued."
13:39 March 15, 2011 by Tarheel Blue
It is nice they are shutting down seven reactors, but which ones? One expects the names and not generic locations to be included in the article.
13:53 March 15, 2011 by moistvelvet
A couragous decision or political strategy? Well if Germany can manage with 10% of their power output reduced then perhaps they had too many in the first place.

But 7 reactors clsoed does seem alot, but what of the jobs, will we now have protests from workers and suppliers who will suffer from these closures, especially if it is permanent? Hooray, more protests on the horizon!!
15:17 March 15, 2011 by Gretl
I am by no means a proponent of nuclear power, but this seems to be a knee-jerk reaction. Germany is not on the ring of fire, and even if an earthquake struck, it is not going to suffer through a tsunami. Japan should've known better, given their location. On the otherside of the Pacific where I am from, we use hydro-electric power. The one nuclear facility was never put into use due to construction issues. Given that Seattle is due for a 9.0 anytime, and we also have volcanos nearby (Rainer, Adams and MT ST Helens) it seems rather prudent not to have nuclear power. I am glad Germany is moving away from it to greener energy, but this seems premature at best. BTW, WTH was Germany thinking using nuclear power without a permanent disposal location? That is MY biggest issue - how do you protect the waste for 10,000 years? How do you develop signs that will convey the danager in the future? We can't even recognize our language as it was spoken 1000 years ago!
17:30 March 15, 2011 by Freeman

how do- ( THEY)- you protect the waste for 10,000 years?

They stick em "deep" miles below the surface crust of our planet not near the core, of earth and hope some future benificiary of this world can Go, figure... Timebomb. Ozone????
23:52 March 15, 2011 by theloudbloke
Only the Germans could turn this unfortunate incident in Japan, a country prone to earthquakes and tsunamis, into political farce.

Of course the Germans are opposed to nuclear power, yet when there renewable dream fails to live up to the hollow promises, where will they turn? Coal and gas power to produce more CO2? No that would be damaging to the planet, better buy some cheap power from France, generated by their nuclear power plants!!!!!!!!

Oh and just to clarify I do mean cheap, the full cost of wind and solar factoring in all of the subsidies does make nuclear look cheap, even with clean up costs. Nobody would build a wind farm or solar PV installation unless they were hansomely rewarded for its inefficiencies.

@Gretl Don't worry about 10,000 years, the human race won't be here that long. We will have killed ourselves off by then, not with nuclear power but with something far safer - a lack of food and water.
03:37 March 16, 2011 by berfel
And today, Merkel will announce the evacuation of people from flood-prone areas along the Rhine and Elbe; as well as a 3km wide coastal strip along the North Sea and Baltic coasts.

Yes? After all, it was flooding that caused the devastation in Japan.

One can't be too careful.
04:23 March 16, 2011 by derExDeutsche
Politics aside. Whats going on in Japan is no joke. safety and forethought are all we have to protect ourselves.against catastrophe. How we built nuclear plants in known earthquake areas is hard to fathom in retrospect. SO maybe its time to examine the safety not just in Germany but Internationally.
07:23 March 16, 2011 by It is I only
As a Frenchman I do approve of Frau Merkel! We in France will sell our excess of nuclear generated power to Germany for money. Then maybe with this money we can all afford in France a nice German car like the Maybach or at least a top Merc. Frau Merkel is the best Kanzlerine the French could have!
09:28 March 16, 2011 by storymann
20:19 March 17, 2011 by cobalisk
The argument that says Nuclear power is cheaper than renewables is flat wrong.

Since there is no permanent storage site for waste that cost has simply been offset by temporary on site storage. How can you compute long term storage costs when there is no existing solution?

Nuclear plants were built with tax revenue and disposal costs are not factored these are THE reasons that nuclear power is considered cheap, because the large scale capital and disposal costs are socialized.

Once the actual costs are factored in, it is considerably more expensive than renewable. No power company plans to build a reactor without considerable state support, why, because it is so Expensive.

Don't accept the 'its cheap' argument, it is NOT cheaper and it is much riskier than renewables.
21:52 March 18, 2011 by sabine1960
Your Quote: -- 13:39 March 15, 2011 by Tarheel Blue

It is nice they are shutting down seven reactors, but which ones? One expects the names and not generic locations to be included in the article.

Reply --- What`s so important about the names??? l wasn`t even aware they had names!! But the location is FAR more important, and would be a factor in where l decided to move!
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