The sinews of the party were displayed on Friday as various leaders and leading figures spoke out in favour of backing Chancellor Angela Merkel's plan to make Germany nuclear free by 2022, despite the Green demands the exit be swifter.
A parliamentary vote on the plan is planned for Thursday.
“An agreement for nuclear exit is not a blank cheque,” party leader Claudia Roth told the Mittelbayerische Zeitung, in an attempt to assure sceptical Greens that the leadership was not bowing down to the conservative-liberal governing coalition.
She said support from the Greens in the vote would not end all options for negotiation or exerting influence.
Should the Greens be part of a federal government after the 2013 election, they would be able to significantly improve safety standards.
“That can then also mean that individual nuclear power stations will have to be shut down earlier than foreseen in Merkel's time plan because a refitting would not be economically worth it,” she told Der Tagesspiegel.
Although the Greens would be bound by the specifics on which the Bundestag will vote, they would push for higher safety standards.
Astrid Rothe-Beinlich confirmed to the Berliner Zeitung that she had been the only one of the six leading committee who had voted against the idea of supporting the government's plan.
She said the government had left too many holes in its plan, such as the search for a final storage place for nuclear waste, the question of keeping nuclear power stations ready to use again, and a number of safety questions.
Not only is the outcome of the party conference unsure, with a significant section of the party unwilling to compromise on its exit target of 2017, but Rothe-Beinlich said Saturday's eventual decision would not be in any case binding on individual MPs, who would be free to vote according to their personal conscience.
Green MEP Daniel Cohn-Bendit urged his party to support the government's plan, saying an exit from nuclear power generation would be a victory for the anti-nuclear movement and the Greens. “We cannot throw this success overboard for tactical reasons,” he told the Berliner Zeitung.
“The Red-Green exit would also not have come before 2022 – that is something one must simply accept,” he said, referring to the original nuclear power exit strategy of the pre-Merkel government of the Social Democratic Party and the Greens.
Insisting on a 2017 exit would be, “not only petty but blind, considering how the debate is being led in the world,” he said.
Jürgen Trittin, one of the Greens' parliamentary leaders and a environment minister in the former Red-Green coalition, was greeted by anti-nuclear demonstrators on Thursday evening, forcing him to enter his Göttingen office through the back door.
Formerly considered a fundamentalist on nuclear power strategy, Trittin has been pushing for the party to support the government, earning him the wrath of those who see the difference between 2017 and 2022 as a crucial gap – and a defeat for the movement.
The demonstrators, as well as a row of large environmental organisations, are loudly protesting what they see as the party's capitulation.