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German govt. rows over nuclear revival

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only
by Staff Writers
Berlin (UPI) Jan 12, 2009
The German government is bickering over how many nuclear power plants it should save from closure.

When Chancellor Angela Merkel's center-right Christian Democratic Union was re-elected in a team with the pro-business Free Democratic Party in September 2009, it was widely believed that nuclear would get a quick boost.

Both parties had campaigned in favor of nuclear power, arguing that nuclear provides secure, relatively cheap CO2-free power and should remain in the mix until renewables are ready to take over.

After the parties were elected in a coalition, everyone had expected them to reverse the planned phase-out of the controversial energy source.

Decisions have not been made yet, however; Berlin has vowed to publish a new energy strategy by October, and until then, it will likely remain unsure which of the 17 remaining reactors will be saved from closure.

Experts are criticizing the delay -- three power plants are facing closure within the next months if the phase-out goes ahead as planned. Agreed in 2000 between the government and the country's utilities, they foresee all German reactors to be shut down by 2021.

"The issue needs to be dealt with quickly," Stephan Kohler, head of the German Energy Agency, or Dena, told German business daily Handelsblatt. "If the talks don't start until October, then insecurity will dominate the market until long in 2011. That's irresponsible."

An internal row is delaying the entire procedure: The Free Democrats would like to tackle the nuclear issue as quickly as possible, while the CDU wants to wait until the energy strategy is drafted.

Merkel's team says nuclear only has a future if the utilities agree to put the major part of the extra revenues from the longer running times into a fund aimed at boosting renewable energy sources and nuclear safety research.

Germany's utilities are wary of the delay, not knowing where and when to invest.

They have recently been focusing on Britain's emerging nuclear market.

Eon and RWE have decided to team up to build nuclear power plants there, promising to invest around $25 billion in the endeavor.

The new company Horizon Nuclear Power headquartered near Gloucester is held to 50 percent by Eon UK, with RWE npower owning the other half.

Duesseldorf-based Eon is one of the major public utilities in Europe and the world's largest private energy company. It employs more than 90,000 people. Essen-based RWE employs 65,000 people and is Germany's second-largest energy company.

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Brussels (AFP) Jan 11, 2010
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