German power firms threaten nuclear shut-off: report

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Energy firms in Germany have threatened to switch off the country's nuclear power stations if Berlin presses ahead with plans for a tax on fuel rods, Spiegel magazine reported on Sunday.

Chancellor Angela Merkel's government, however, dismissed E.ON, RWE, Vattenfall and EnBW's threat as "sabre-ratting," the weekly said in an article to be published on Monday.

Merkel's government and the power firms are currently in negotiations about her election pledge to extend the life of some plants beyond a planned shut-down in around 2020 brought in by her predecessor Gerhard Schroeder.

In return, the government wants to introduce the fuel rods tax and to spend some of the extra profits that letting reactors run for longer would generate on promoting renewable energies like wind or solar power.

The firms have proposed instead paying 20-30 billion euros (26-38 billion dollars) into a fund, an idea that has reportedly won some backing within the government.

Environmental pressure group Greenpeace meanwhile said that Germany's eight oldest nuclear plants only produced 5.4 percent of Germany's electricity and could be switched off immediately.

"The others could be turned off by 2015," it said in a statement. "This is no threat, this is good news ... The firms have admitted with this announcement that Germany's dilapidated German nuclear power stations are not needed."

© 2010 AFP

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