Friday, 3 June 2011

Germany's costly decision to give up nuclear power

Germany’s stunning decision this week to switch off nuclear power by 2022 may prevent a political meltdown for Chancellor Angela Merkel and her party. But for Germans, who live in Europe’s largest economy, it will likely generate costs – economic, environmental, and even geopolitical.

Pure and simple, politics drove Chancellor Merkel to this unwise policy reversal. She has ardently supported nuclear power, which generates 23 percent of Germany’s electricity. Earlier, she had decided to extend the life of Germany’s atomic plants until 2036, more than a decade longer than a scheduled phaseout agreed to in the previous center-left government.

But when Japan’s earthquake and tsunami caused a partial meltdown of nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in March, that also triggered earth-moving protests against nuclear power in Germany. In local elections, the issue caused Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrat party to lose political control of a state that it had historically dominated. Her nuclear “nein, danke” now opens the way to a possible coalition with the popular Green party after the next national election.

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