(November 18, 2005) The many observers who had thought the nuclear power question would no longer play a part in a German election campaign have been proved wrong. The subject of nuclear power was the only environmental topic among the top issues in the recent German Federal election campaign. When the elections were over and the coalition of the Social-Democrats (SPD) and the Greens were not re-elected, a Grand Coalition of Ms. Merkel's conservative and pro-nuclear CDU/CSU with the SPD became inevitable and observers then thought the nuclear phase-out was dead. They turned out to be wrong again.
The nuclear phase-out has proved not to be simply a pet-project of the Green party, but a decision supported by a majority of some 70% of the population including most of the social-democratic electorate and even significant parts of the conservative electorate. Until late Saturday night (November 12), both coalition parties were fighting for and against the nuclear-phase-out without gaining any ground on each other; the only result it seemed was to agree to disagree. This is reflected in the text of the Coalition Accord (see unofficial translation below).
So no news is good news in this case. But there are still important concerns about the nuclear phase-out in Germany. Greenpeace and other environmental organisations in Germany have heavily criticized the existing German nuclear phase-out for a number of reasons, but mainly for the slow speed at which it is currently taking place, for the guaranties for "undisturbed operation" the state is granting utilities over the years to come, as well as for the many loopholes it contains.
One of the major loopholes being that there are no fix shut-down dates in the phase-out accord and Atomic Law, but so called "remaining electricity quantities", which utilities are allowed to shift from one plant to another. The huge problem is, that the utilities have announced, that they intend to apply for a shift of remaining electricity quantities from younger plants to older plants in order to extend the agreed lifetime of the oldest German plants like, for example, the infamous Biblis A reactor close to Frankfurt / Main. If the government would grant the utilities shifts like this, this would undermine and eventually destroy the whole nuclear phase-out scheme. So how serious this new government and its Social Democratic partner really is about a nuclear phase-out, remains to be seen - until 2008 at the latest when Biblis A will be closed down, or not as the case may be.
Source and contact: Tobias Muenchmeyer, Deputy Head, Greenpeace Germany Political Unit
Marienstr. 19-20, 10117 Berlin
Tel: +49 (30) 30 88 99 - 21
Fax: +49 (30) 30 88 99 - 30
AN UNOFFICIAL TRANSLATION OF EXCERPTS FROM THE COALITION ACCORD
"Concerning the use of nuclear power for electricity generation, different views exist between CDU, CSU and SPD. Therefore the agreement between the Federal Government and the Electricity Generating Utilities, signed on June 14 2000, as well as the procedures agreed on in this document and the necessary mechanism introduced into the amended Atomic Law cannot be changed. For CDU, CSU and SPD the safe operation of Nuclear Power Plants has the highest priority. In this context we will continue and extend the research for the safe operation of Nuclear Power Plants. CDU, CSU and SPD are committed to the national responsibility for the safe final storage of radioactive wastes and to seeking a solution for this problem in a speedy and result-oriented manner. We intend to arrive at a solution during this term of government. In the field of nuclear safeguards Federal and Regional authorities cooperate in a trustful manner."