Germany Inches towards Nuclear Power Phase Out

BERLIN, Germany, January 18, 2000 (ENS) - The German ruling coalition of Social Democrats (SPD) and Greens came away from a meeting Saturday one step closer to agreeing on the 30 year operating limit on nuclear power stations decided within the Green party last month.

Although no final agreement emerged, an SPD spokesperson said Monday that this was not for reasons of "content" but because there was still a "need for discussion within the SPD."

Trittin

Environment Minister Jürgen Trittin, a Green Party minister. (Photo courtesy government of Germany)
He said that he "assumed that his party would go along with the 30 year limit the Greens had already agreed" at an SPD meeting planned for January 25.

Agreement between the coalition parties is a prerequisite to resumption of the consensus talks between government and the nuclear power industry.

Germany has 20 nuclear power stations which supply roughly 28 percent of the nation's electricity.

According to the SPD spokesperson, the next round of negotiations to try and find a consensus on the phase out programme will be at the beginning of February. These talks will involve the environment, industry and energy ministers as well as the prime minister and representatives from the generating industry.

Daubler-Gmelin

Justice Minister Herta Daubler-Gmelin, a Social Democratic Party minister. (Photo courtesy government of Germany)
Meanwhile, a German environment ministry spokesperson confirmed that Environment Minister Jürgen Trittin and Justice Minister Herta Daubler-Gmelin will meet on Wednesday to discuss the nuclear phase out.

Contrary to some German press reports, the nuclear electricity generating industry will not be meeting ministers this week.

The German Green Party agreed at a meeting December 14, 1999 to push for the lifetimes of Germany's nuclear power stations to be limited to 30 years.

The party's position allows for a three year "preparation period" before the first power station must close, intended to protect the government from any legal action brought by the nuclear power generating industry. This means that that the first power station would close in 2003, one year after the politically sensitive date of the next German elections.

The Greens position includes a new input tax on nuclear fuel, proposed in part to appease the party's hard-line left wing. Also part of the package are higher safety standards, higher levels of liability insurance and stricter controls on waste shipments.

A party source stressed that the "decisive levers" were likely to be fuel taxes, safety requirements and abolishing tax relief on reserves set aside by firms for future power station dismantling.

The party believes that, if implemented, these conditions would make nuclear power uncompetitive, hastening its demise in Germany.

Nuclear power firms have been demanding maximum reactor lifetimes of 35 years. The industry calculates lifetimes in operating years, which excludes down-time, while the Greens want reactor lifetimes to be measured in calendar years.

The Greens' position has been attacked by environmental NGOs as being too weak. Conservation group Nabu described the proposal as "soft as a baby's nappy," while Friends of the Earth Germany (BUND) called it "completely irresponsible" and said that nuclear power should be phased out more quickly.

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{Published in cooperation with ENDS Environment Daily, Europe's choice for environmental news. Environmental Data Services Ltd, London. Email: envdaily@ends.co.uk}