Merkel rebuffs German industry attack on nuclear tax
Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday dismissed angry calls by German business leaders to scrap a planned tax on nuclear energy production which they call a threat to investment.
Asked whether taxes on the nuclear energy sector amounting to 2.3 billion euros (2.9 billion dollars) per year would still be introduced, Merkel replied, "Of course," in an interview to air later Sunday on ZDF public television.
She said she assumed the tax would be in the form of a direct levy on nuclear power plants, in exchange for an extension of the reactors' lifetimes beyond a planned shutdown in around 2020 agreed by a previous government.
"We (the cabinet) proposed a tax on nuclear power plants and as long as there is no other proposal on the table, this is the tax that will come," she said.
Some 40 business leaders lashed out at the government in a full-page newspaper ad Saturday warning that the proposed tax on the country's 17 nuclear power plants would hamper investment in Europe's biggest economy during a nascent recovery.
While the environment ministry wants some of the revenue from a nuclear energy tax to go toward promoting renewable energies such as wind or solar power, Merkel said it would go toward balancing the budget.
Merkel underlined her centre-right government's commitment to slowing the phase-out of nuclear power agreed by her predecessor Gerhard Schroeder, arguing that Germany is not ready to do without the energy it supplies.
"I am firmly convinced that it is necessary to allow the nuclear power plants to run longer," she told ZDF.
Merkel's government aims to unveil a broad energy policy overhaul by the end of September, including a new plan for the nuclear phase-out.
© 2010 AFP