German parliament approves nuclear exit

30th June 2011, Comments 0 comments

The German parliament approved by an overwhelming majority on Thursday plans to scrap nuclear power by 2022, a decision set in motion in the wake of the Fukushima disaster in Japan.

The bill on the nuclear exit cleared the Bundestag lower house by 513 votes to 79 but must still pass the Bundesrat upper house, representing Germany's 16 federal states, next month. Its approval is considered certain.

"This is a shared national project that is being approved today," Environment Minister Norbert Roettgen said ahead of the vote, which drew the support of all the parties in parliament except for the far-left Die Linke.

The move to pull the plug on the country's 17 reactors marks a stark about-face by Chancellor Angela Merkel and her centre-right government which last year had approved plans to extend their operation.

The seven oldest reactors were already switched off after Japan's massive March 11 earthquake and tsunami knocked out cooling systems at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, causing reactors to overheat and radiation to leak.

A further German reactor has been shut for years because of technical problems.

Germany's nine reactors currently on line are due to be turned off between 2015 and 2022, and even faster pace than envisaged when Merkel announced the decision last month.

Germany is the first major industrialised power to agree an end to atomic power since the disaster, the world's worst since Chernobyl in 1986, with tens of thousands of people living near Fukushima evacuated.

The Bundestag also approved measures to fill the gap left by nuclear power, on which Germany relies for about 22 percent of its energy needs.

This includes building new coal and gas power plants, although Berlin is sticking to its target of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by 2020 from 1990 levels, and by 80-95 percent by 2050.

It also signed off on expanding wind energy, in a bid to boost the share of the country's power needs generated by renewable energies to 35 percent by 2020 from 17 percent at present.

And it approved higher subsidies for renovating residential buildings to improve energy efficiency.

© 2011 AFP

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