Germany’s coalition government has agreed to shut down all the country’s nuclear power plants by 2022, the environment minister said, making it the first major industrialised power to go nuclear-free since the Japanese disaster.
The country’s seven oldest reactors already taken off the grid pending safety inspections following the catastrophe at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in March will remain off-line permanently, Norbert Roettgen added. The country has 17 reactors in total.
Roettgen praised the coalition agreement after negotiations through the night between the governing parties.
“This is coherent. It is clear,” he told reporters in Berlin. “That’s why it is a good result.”
Chancellor Angela Merkel pushed through measures in 2010 to extend the lifespan of the country’s 17 reactors, with the last one scheduled to go off-line in 2036, but she reversed her policy in the wake of the Japanese disaster.
Germany, Europe’s biggest economy, stands alone among the world’s major industrialised nations still using nuclear power in its determination to gradually replace it with renewable energy sources. Italy decided to stop producing nuclear power after the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.
Throughout March - before the seven reactors were taken off-line - just under a quarter of Germany’s electricity was produced by nuclear power, about the same share as in the US.
Energy from wind, solar and hydroelectric power currently produces about 17% of the country’s electricity, but the government aims to boost its share to around 50% in the coming decades.
Many Germans have been vehemently opposed to nuclear power since Chernobyl sent radioactive fallout over the country. Tens of thousands repeatedly took to the street in the wake of Fukushima to urge the government to shut all reactors.
Merkel’s government ordered the country’s seven oldest reactors, built before 1980, shut down four days after the Fukushima incident.
The plants, which will now remain off-line, accounted for about 40% of the country’s nuclear power capacity.