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Germany temporarily halts nuclear extension plan

03-15-2011 16:19 BJT

BERLIN, March 14 (Xinhua) -- Germany would suspend the plan of extending the lifespan of its 17 nuclear power plants for three months, Chancellor Angela Merkel announced Monday, amid fears of meltdowns at several nuclear plants in quake-hit Japan.

Merkel told a press conference that her government will run security tests on the country's nuclear power stations during the three-month moratorium. Further decisions on the future of its nuclear plants would depend on the results of an inquiry into reactor safety.

Merkel said an independent commission would be established for the inquiry, adding that "there are no taboos" on the inspection and "everything will be put under review."

"If a highly developed country like Japan, with high safety standards and norms, cannot prevent such consequences for nuclear power after an earthquake and a tsunami, then this has consequences for the whole world."

"This changes the situation, including in Germany. We have a new situation, and this situation must be thoroughly analyzed," she said.

The chancellor announced that Germany is to close its two oldest nuclear plants this year, known as Neckarwestheim 1 and Biblis A, which has been run since 1976 and 1975 separately.

The chancellor believed that after Japan's earthquake and nuclear disaster, Germany is facing "a new situation which needs to be unreservedly, wholeheartedly and comprehensively analyzed and only then will decisions follow."

Merkel said that Germany is to shut down its two oldest nuclear plants in a few days, without naming them. Some officials said later that they may be nuclear reactor Neckarwestheim 1 and Biblis A, which have been in operation since 1976 and 1975 separately and scheduled to close this year.

However, she stressed that these moves do not mean that Germany will give up the peaceful use of nuclear energy, as nuclear power has been acting as an important "bridge technology" until renewable energy become more viable.

Vice Chancellor and Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle told reporters that Germany "needs a new risk analysis" of the running nuclear plants.

Merkel's government decided last October to extend the lifespan of its nuclear power station -- those built before 1980 in Germany can be run eight extra years, and those born after 1980 can extend their running time to 14 years.

The controversial decision, which has been approved by the lower house of parliament, toppled the old legislation of the previous government-- a coalition of the center-left Social Democrats (SPD) and the Greens, which insisted on shutting down all 17 nuclear power stations by 2022. Polls showed that the majority of Germans opposed such extension.

Since Friday, several Japanese nuclear power reactors have witnessed terrible explosions and possible meltdowns after a 9- magnitude earthquake and devastating tsunami struck the eastern coast of Japan. The disaster in Japan has immediately triggered a new round of disputes over Germany's nuclear extension move.

On Saturday, some 40,000 people formed a 45-kilometer human chain from Germany's southern Neckarwestheim nuclear plant to Stuttgart, asking for an immediate stop on nuclear energy.

The controversy has put Merkel's coalition under heavy political pressure as several crucial regional elections will take place in the coming months, including the key votes in the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg on March 27.

The opposition parties, including the Social Democrats (SPD) and the Greens, have been urging Merkel to give up the idea of extending nuclear plants' running time after the first explosion in Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant on Saturday.

Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) was defeated by the SPD in the February election of Hamburg State, ending its ten-years' governing of the important commercial state.

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Editor:Yang Jie |Source: Xinhua

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