Thousands rally against nuclear power in Germany

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Tens of thousands of activists on Saturday protested against Germany's plans to prolong its dependency on nuclear power, as an explosion at a quake-hit plant in Japan fuelled fears of a meltdown.

About 60,000 people formed a 45-kilometre (28-mile) human chain between the nuclear power station of Neckarwestheim and the city of Stuttgart in south-west Germany, said Jochen Stay, a member of green group Ausgestrahlt (Radiated).

Activists organised the rally to protest against Berlin's plans to extend the lives of nuclear power stations, a key voter issue in polls that will take place two weeks later in Bade-Wurtemberg region, where Stuttgart is located.

Environmental groups have also called for "anti-nuclear vigils" across the nation beginning on Monday at 1700 GMT.

The demonstration took place on the same day as an explosion at a nuclear power plant in northeastern Japan, raising fears of a radioactive meltdown following an 8.9 magnitude earthquake that unleashed tsunamis that destroyed everything in their path.

The government ordered the evacuation of tens of thousands of residents living within a three-kilometre (two-mile) radius of the plant.

"The events in Japan show once again how much nuclear energy is uncontrollable and dangerous," said the green activist Stay.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Bade-Wurtemberg Minister-President Stefan Mappus "will understand that whoever extends the life of nuclear power stations shortens his or her own political life," he added.

The German parliament in late 2009 voted to extend the use of its nuclear stations, reneging on a plan to gradually end their use under previous chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

© 2011 AFP

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