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       Energy and Environment 16/02/2010
Nuclear power on the political agendas in Germany and Italy

No decision yet for Germany’s nuclear power


The debate over nuclear power plants in Germany is not recent, but the country has not come to a consensus yet. The question is if Germany could shut down its nuclear reactors after 32 years of service without risking a serious blackout or if it should rather extend their lifetime knowing that nuclear power plants provide about a quarter of the country’s electricity.


60% of Germans remain hostile to nuclear power and continue to favour the current phase-out legislation passed by the former coalition of Social Democrats and Greens. This latter promote the idea of shutting down 2 of the 17 nuclear reactors by the end of this year.


Angela Merkel and her governing coalition ally, the Liberals, spread out the thought of extending the lifetime of German nuclear power plants, at least until an alternative renewable source could replace the existing one in order not to suffer from the deficit that the nuclear phase-out is bound to provoke.


A majority of decision-makers expects this extension to last about 20 years, rather than 8 years as some of Merkel’s allies would prefer. This may come in the context where the US has extended the life of its reactors from 40 to 60 years and Spain is currently also considering a similar prolongation for its eight nuclear reactors which are producing about 20% of the country’s electricity needs. In France, nuclear power is providing 77% of the country’s electricity.


The issue is also debated in the election campaign in May in North Rhine-Westphalia, the country’s most populous Land and in Bavaria, one of its most economically powerful. The CDU minister for the environment and nuclear safety, Norbert Röttgen, suggested that nuclear energy should be phased out as fast as possible. His stance of anti-nuclear supporter could be a strategic one in order to “seduce” the Greens to join him in a new coalition.  


Mrs Merkel promised her coalition government will unveil a long-term energy strategy for Germany by autumn, but certainly not before the North Rhine-Westphalia elections. 



What about Italy? Italy, back to the nuclear power plants!



On 10 February 2010, the Italian government approved the decree on the return to nuclear power plants in the country. The decree underlines especially the criteria of power plants localisation and lays down the obligation of the companies to finance their own future relocation.


The law regarding the return to power plants, after more than 20 years of interdiction due to a referendum after the Tchernobyl disaster, has been passed in July last year.


Construction works should start in 2013, but it will take 7 years more until the sites will be ready for energy production.




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