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Atomic village bucks anti-nuclear trend

The Local · 19 Apr 2011, 10:41

Published: 19 Apr 2011 10:41 GMT+02:00

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But anti-nuclear activist Wolfram Scheffbuch has taken to removing his whenever he comes to the small village of Neckarwestheim in the southwest of the country.

"It's not the done thing here," the 40-something said.

Neckarwestheim is home not just to one nuclear reactor, but two - Germany's oldest, in service since 1976, and its newest, up and running since 1989. The villagers are vehemently opposed to shutting them down.

The spewing of radiation by Japan's stricken Fukushima plant since March 11's earthquake and tsunami has shaken faith in nuclear power in Germany perhaps more than other European countries.

Recent weeks have seen huge demonstrations calling for Germany to stop using nuclear power, culminating on March 26 in a mass demonstration in towns around the country which organisers said involved a quarter of a million people.

The next day, Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives were turfed out of power in the southwestern state of Baden-Württemberg, home to Neckarwestheim, after 58 years in charge.

The main reason for the political upset was opposition to nuclear power, which helped the Greens to hugely improve their performance, not only in Baden-Württemberg, but also in other state elections.

Merkel is reconsidering the decision she took last year to postpone by more than a decade - until the mid-2030s - the date when Germany goes nuclear-free. The country's seven oldest reactors have already been shut down pending a safety review.

One of those is in Neckarwestheim, and it looks like it might never be used again.

But the inhabitants of the village are having none of it. Here the Greens fell well short of the 24 percent they scored in Baden-Württemberg as a whole.

"They only got 13 percent or so," the mayor of the village for the past 15 years, Mario Dürr, proudly told AFP news agency.

And despite the fact that Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) scored 49 percent, 10 percentage points more than in the state as a whole, Dürr doesn't like the government's nuclear re-think.

"I am not like the chancellor," he says. "I don't change my mind the whole time."

Looking around the well-ordered village, with its tennis courts and ultra-modern sports hall under construction, it is easy to see why its inhabitants are no fans of a nuclear-free future.

The operator of the nuclear reactors, Energie Baden-Württemberg, better known as EnBW, accounts for 80 percent of the village's corporate tax receipts, and 250 villagers work at the plant.

The local nightclub where Neckarwestheim's youth goes to dance and hang out is called the Uranium Bar.

"You have to live well here," the mayor says.

Suntanned Elisabeth Rech, who has managed the village's Hotel am Markt for the past 20 years, is rushing off to play golf, but has time to tell AFP that her business would be ruined if the reactors go.

"The power station accounts for almost 90 percent of my revenues," she says.

"And what would be the point of shutting down our reactors if we end up importing electricity from France?"

Story continues below…

France, which borders Baden-Württemberg to the west, generates some 80 percent of its electricity using nuclear power.

Pensioner Maria Neubauer, tending her garden in full view of the reactors, feels the same.

"It's part of everyday life," she says.

She's not unhappy about the prospect of the oldest reactor never being switched on again, which seems likely. Because of the radioactivity?

"Yes, and also because there is less steam. Sometimes it really ruins the view."


The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

11:35 April 19, 2011 by trash head
Emberassing to report abt the last village on the planet.

Who wonder that this village is still behind their money bag.

Also isnt this sh!t worth to mention. Its not popular in german media. If the journalism is bad like this, then better copy from ARD and ZDF ...
12:36 April 19, 2011 by krautrock
Interesting article , thanks.
12:40 April 19, 2011 by The-ex-pat
But anti-nuclear activist Wolfram Scheffbuch has taken to removing his whenever he comes to the small village of Neckarwestheim in the southwest of the country.

"It's not the done thing here," the 40-something said.

So not a man of strong convictions then???
13:17 April 19, 2011 by tallady
The power of the almighty dollar. Who cares about a disaster that may never happen when they are basking in the wealth generated by the power facilities.

The only remark made that is sensible is that it would be fool hearted to shut these plants down and buy nuclear power from France.
13:28 April 19, 2011 by trash head
> So not a man of strong convictions then???

He is from CSU/CDU fraction. The gummy politicans partie.
15:50 April 19, 2011 by Wobinidan
I personally can't wait to power my electrical appliances on good intentions and short-sightedness. It's so easy to find amongst the anti-nuclear lobby that it should be much cheaper.
22:21 April 19, 2011 by whpmgr
I wonder why people are so short sighted. What is the chance of a major Earthquake or Tsunami in Germany? Now let's think about what could happen there and work on eliminating the danger. A typical fault tree: Operator error (design in overrides that are computer controlled); Computer program error, have people with checklists overseeing the system. Teh major problem could be an attack from terrorists or an attack from a foreign nation. You can't do too much agains tthe Russians if they attack, but not many other people would be the agressors since they live too close to the fallout. Islamic terrorists are the major issue here. Not much you can do about that except arm the citizens so they can actually kill terrorists.
00:32 April 21, 2011 by ruby_18559
i love nuclear supporters......now we know where to put all the waste that's going to be around for 30,000 years

'no nuclear waste storage site could be found, but thanks to these courageous Neckarwestheimers....'
15:11 April 21, 2011 by whpmgr
ruby_18559: I have stated in other articles that the best way would be to put the waste on the Moon. No one has or will live there. It won't hurt theih environment there as there is none, and it would be totally safe. Nuclear energy is the best, safest and cleanest alternative. We need Fusion, but it appears we are years off fromthat, and the results of an accident with that would be far greater than from Nuclear accidents so far seen in the World.

It is irresponsible to think you can go back to burning carbon based fuels again after germany has had so many years of pollution killing off tons /millions of trees. The US needs to bring in more nuclear energy, and the rest of the world needs to figure out how to best do things too. Think of the benefits versus the cost that a few nuclear Power plants in Africa would bring to that continent.

The Japanese accident was a rather remote accident with bad consequences, but, I can count on one hand the bad things that hav ehappened with the power plants, Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and now Japan- how many in France and Germany and the US have been operating with no problems?

Do we go backwards due to fear that is based on falacy or worst case scenarios? Think, if you are green minded, what could be more green? ANd, since it is not in my backyard (being tongue in cheek now).....
18:37 April 21, 2011 by Sarah Washington
It is funny that nobody ever asks the question why our high skill levels and human ingenuity have never been fully deployed for energy provision. I hear the constant rattle that we don't have enough sun or wind. Well - why not ensure what we have has maximum efficiency, and on top of that develop brand new technologies? We are certainly capable.

Aha, you don't get funding for smart ideas, that is usually earmarked for those that keep the money rolling in certain directions. If every household is powering themselves through a combination of sustainable sources, what will happen to the profits of the energy companies? This is probably the main reason why an effort has not been made to bring renewables within price reach of the average citizen.

Newer technologies such as air heat exchange work come rain or shine, but how much do we hear about these? And why aren't governments encouraging us to take up the new generation of more efficient solar cells? Because it takes a very long time to gouge new channels for the money to flow in. Businesses are dinosaurs, who need more than a gentle prod to change course. And naturally none of them have an interest in a self-sufficient population.

Shouldn't we spend our voices convincing everyone that we can all produce - and sell the excess off to France and the UK? We can have a permanent party, until the rest cotton on.
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