Germany puts nuclear exit on ice

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Chancellor Angela Merkel put on ice Monday plans to postpone the date when Germany abandons nuclear power following what she said were game-changing events in Japan, pending a safety review.

"We cannot just go back to business as usual," Merkel told reporters. "Events in Japan ... teach us that risks that were thought to be completely impossible cannot in fact be completely ruled out."

She announced a three-month moratorium on government plans approved last year to postpone by more than a decade until the mid-2030s when the last of the 17 nuclear power plants are switched off in Europe's biggest economy.

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

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

She added: "Reviewing security there can be no taboos. Exactly for this reason there will be a three-month moratorium on the extension of operating times for German nuclear plants."

The postponement was highly unpopular with Germans, polls showed last year, prompting several large protests, including in the southwestern state of Baden-Wuerttemberg on Saturday where a key election takes place on March 27.

Explosions have rocked two overheating nuclear reactors at the ageing Fukushima plant, located 250 kilometres (160 miles) northeast of Tokyo, after the cooling systems were knocked out by Friday's 8.9-magnitude quake.

© 2011 AFP

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