The environmentalist Greens have pushed the idea of making Germany nuclear free by 2017, while Chancellor Angela Merkel's strategy would do that by 2022.
But the regional daily newspaper the Rheinische Post reported on Friday that Green party leaders Cem Özdemir and Claudia Roth as well as parliamentary group leaders Renate Künast and Jürgen Trittin had agreed during a telephone conference, to try to steer the party behind the slower plan at a special conference on June 25.
“For us Greens, the broad consensus of as many political parties in the parliament as possible, for the exit from the high-risk nuclear technology has value in itself,” says their paper on the matter, which will be put to the party next week for a vote.
The debate will pitch the two wings of the Greens against each other just as the party has been basking in high levels of popularity, as well as the unprecedented fact of the first ever Green state premier.
The leadership is risking serious opposition from party backbenchers in its desire not to be seen as not supporting a move to take Germany away from nuclear power in parliament.
The more radical wing of the party will find it difficult to accede to the idea of an additional five years of nuclear power, as well as supporting the conservative-liberal government.
Environment groups as well as Green left-wingers have been demanding Merkel's plan be rejected completely as it does not go far or fast enough, according to news magazine Der Spiegel.
But the leadership is appealing to more pragmatic Greens in order to be part of those who decide to move Germany away from nuclear power.
Trittin, generally considered to be from left faction of the party, and a former environment minister, is pushing very hard within the party for it to support Merkel's plan, according to the Rheinische Post.
The Green leadership is only backing the one point in the government's plan – it rejects the rest of the suggested energy policy. The leadership's paper sets out a number of changes including a faster and more decisive move to renewable energy.
Green support for the change of heart over nuclear power shown by Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in the light of the Japan's nuclear disaster, as well as recent flattering comments made by Green Baden-Württemberg state premier Winfried Kretschmann about the chancellor, have fuelled speculation of a potential alliance between the two parties.
The governing centre-right coalition between Merkel's CDU and the pro-business Free Democratic Party (FDP) has been wracked by disagreements and the collapse of the FDP in opinion polls. Few political observers consider it to have a future beyond the next federal election in 2013.
Kretschmann said in an interview with Der Tagesspiegel newspaper last weekend that Merkel deserved great respect for her change in energy policy, while also citing personal similarities between them as they were both scientists.
And Özdemir recently told the Hamburger Abendblatt that he would not rule out a possible coalition with the CDU after the next election.
Some within the CDU have also warmed to the Greens since the election of Kretschmann in Baden-Württemberg. He is seen as conservative enough on many matters to be acceptable to them.
But other Greens are seen as too radical and left-wing for the CDU, while party leaders want to stem speculation and concentrate on trying to hold the current coalition together for another two years.
“We need coalition parlour games right now like a hole in the head, CDU General Secretary Hermann Gröhe told the Frankfurter Rundschau. Rather, he said, the coalition wanted to tackle the challenges facing the country with mainstream conservative policies.
Others suspect the offer of a possible coalition with the Greens as a poisoned chalice, as CDU MP Philipp Mißfelder put it. Kretschmann was, “trying to sow dissent within the ranks of the CDU and in our coalition,” he said.
Meanwhile the nuclear switch-off is starting already, with energy firm EnBW announcing on Friday that the two nuclear power stations Neckarwestheim I und Philippsburg I would not be brought online again for the period between the end of the current moratorium and the national nuclear exit.
The firm said it had made the decision after weighing up the short-term financial disadvantage and the ‘long-term boost to customer relations and acceptance in society.'