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PRI's Environmental News Magazine

Germany

Air Date: Week of June 22, 2001

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Germany has made it official – the government and the country’s leading energy suppliers just signed an agreement to phase out the use of nuclear power over the next twenty years. But, as NPR’s Sarah Chayes reports, not everyone is happy with the agreement.

Transcript

CURWOOD: Last year, the German government declared it would shut down all of the nation's nuclear power plants. Now an agreement has been reached with the German electric utilities to implement the shut- down. But the plan is drawing criticism from both friends and foes of nuclear power. From Paris, NPR's Sarah Chayes reports.

CHAYES: The devil is in the details, says the adage, and this complex plan, reached after tough talks with recalcitrant power companies, seems to confirm the saying. Germany is not shutting down its nuclear power plants now; it'll let them die a natural death over the next 20 years. They currently produce a third of the country's electricity. The transport and reprocessing of nuclear waste will be reduced; insurance fees for reactors increased to reflect true-market cost, and incentives will be devised to encourage the use of renewable resources. Already, many environmentalists are angry at the plan's long timetable, while members of the pro-nuclear Atomic Forum hint darkly about reversing the policy, if elections in a year's time force the current Social Democratic coalition out of office. The decision to do away with nuclear power was a concession to the Green Party, part of the ruling coalition. Germany's neighbor, France, is on the opposite end of the scale: eighty percent of French electricity is produced by nuclear reactors. And now, with climate change and greenhouse gasses topping the international environmental agenda, some see a new value in nuclear power. Reactors don't emit greenhouse gasses. And the French government's reliance on nuclear energy may just allow it to meet its Kyoto requirements. The U.S., which cut back its use of nuclear power in the late 1970s, is now reconsidering its policy. So, as one German environmentalist put it recently, "The battle isn't over with this nuclear consensus.'" For Living On Earth, I'm Sarah Chayes, reporting.

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