Chancellor Merkel to Meet with Heads of Federal States Following Nuclear Crisis in Japan

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has offered Japan assistance following last week’s massive earth quake, the ensuing tsunami wave and the nuclear crisis in the Fukushima nuclear power plants. Presumably on Tuesday, Mrs Merkel will meet with the premiers of the German states in which nuclear power plants are located, she announced. Meanwhile more and more politicians of the ruling Conservative/Liberal government that passed a nuclear power extension last year openly question nuclear power.

With the votes of the ruling Conservative/Liberal coalition government lead by Mrs Merkel, Germany amended the Atomic Power Act (AtG) that provides for a phase-out of nuclear energy in Germany last year. The German nuclear power plants were allocated additional generation quantities, leading to an extension of the operating times of the 17 German nuclear power plants for an average of 12 years. The 11th and 12thamendment of the AtG were heavily opposed, in particular by the Socialists and the Greens, who in 2002 passed an AtG amendment foreseeing the earlier phase-out. Several lawsuits have meanwhile been brought against the AtG amendments (see related posts).

Asked in a press conference on Saturday whether the events in Japan could be the turning point for nuclear politics in Germany, Mrs Merkel said it was too early to judge. Germany had to monitor the events and draw conclusions for its own safety standards. Safety had top priority she stressed, but first all the relevant facts had to be collected. Foreign Minister Westerwelle added that the government learnt of a breakdown of a cooling in Fukushima. “If this is the case, we will immediately examine whether the cooling systems in the German nuclear power plants have the same susceptibility to failure”, he said.

On Sunday Mrs Merkel reiterated that safety had absolute priority. As far as one could judge, the German nuclear power plants were safe, she said, adding nuclear power was a technology that was being phased-out but was still used as a bridging technology on the road to a renewable energy supply. Mrs Merkel pointed out that safety standards in Germany had been continuously updated and amended over the years. However, the events in Japan were a reminder to review safety standards, not only in Germany, but in the whole of Europe, she said.

“In the wake of the events in Japan, we may have to reevaluate nuclear power”, Environment Minister Norbert Röttgen said in a talk show on Sunday night, the newspaper Die Welt reports. “We must try to do without nuclear power as soon as possible”, he said. Mr Röttgen, a fellow party member of Angela Merkel initially favoured a shorter nuclear power extensionthan agreed last year. Party colleagues and FDP members, including Economics Minister Rainer Brüderle, however, called for a longer extension.

Today a number of media, including the respected magazine Der Spiegel report that Foreign Minister Westerwelle does no longer exclude an moratorium on the nuclear power extension. “We need a new risk analysis. Safety had priority over economic interests”, he is quoted as saying. Other CDU, CSU and FDP members are also distancing themselves from nuclear, Spiegel says.

Sources: Federal Government (press statement by Chancellor Merkel and Foreign Minister Westerwelle), Federal Government (main information on website)Welt Online, Spiegel Online

Related posts: