Germany split down the middle over nuclear exit

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A new survey has revealed that as many Germans support nuclear decommissioning as support it, mirroring a split among the nation's politicians

The German public is split down the middle with regard to nuclear decommissioning, according to a survey released today

According to the Forsa survey for Stern magazine 46 percent of those surveyed say that they support the policy of removing nuclear power as a means of energy production in Germany, whilst 46 percent believe that nuclear plants should remain open as a solution to the country's energy requirements.

Under the previous Social Democrat (SPD)/Green alliance a commitment was made to decommissioning all of Germany's existing nuclear power stations and a halt on the construction of new facilities. The deal was  a condition of the Greens agreeing to powershare with Gerhard Schroeder's SPD but Angela Merkel's CDU has openly said that it sees nuclear power as a sustainable solution to Germany's energy requirements.

Merkel's attitude mirrors UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown's stance on nuclear power. Last November Mr Brown made a speech in which he pledged his support for a new generation for nuclear power stations to replace Britain's aging nuclear sites, some of which date from the 1950s and 1960s.

Nuclear power's critics claim that although it creates zero carbon emissions the risk to public safety is too great. Issues range from the security of nuclear facilities against terrorist attack to the disposal of nuclear waste and waste water. Two days ago a leak from a French nuclear plant forced a ban on drawing water from underground reservoirs and swimming in nearby rivers.

Former environment minister and Green MP Juergen Trittin told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung, "nuclear power is now so safe that drinking water has to be brought in to three French towns. What has changed?"

The Greens also point to problems with a number of new nuclear facilities being built. A project in Finland which was supposed to be a benchmark in safety and affordability has developed cracks in its concrete structure. The German government also faces opposition from local communities when looking for suitable storage sites. Merkel's CDU had wished to store nuclear waste in Gorleben, Niedersachsen but the local community is split.

Gorleben, like many storage sites around the world, receives payment from the nuclear industry as compensation of allowing storage facilities in the local area.

A number of factors have forced the CDU's enthusiasm for a new nuclear age , an era which many had thought laid to rest after the SPD/Green agreement. The climbing price of oil and a commitment to fighting climate change mean that Germany must be able to produce energy in huge quantities whilst cutting its carbon emissions, something the CDU sees as unworkable using renewable energy alone.

The consumer and economics magazine Focus today reported that a continuation of the German nuclear program would in fact save consumers around 50 cents per month in contrast to other energy forms.

Dominic Hinde

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