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Germans more prepared to go nuclear, poll says

Published on July 04, 2008

Berlin -- Long-standing German opposition to nuclear power is crumbling, although opponents of nuclear power remain in the majority, according to a new poll published on Thursday.

The poll, commissioned by national public broadcaster ARD, found that 51 percent of those surveyed wanted Germany to stick by its commitment to phase out nuclear power by 2021.

But 44 percent of the 1,000 people polled by Infratest dimap said they now believed the decision to abandon nuclear power was wrong. The figures was up 8 percentage points from December 2007.

Christian Democrat (CDU) Chancellor Angela Merkel is bound by the coalition deal struck with the Social Democrats (SPD) to stick by the phase-out, passed into law under the previous SPD-Greens government of Gerhard Schroeder in 2000.

But the chancellor and her party have become increasingly strong proponents of nuclear power, both to ease German reliance on imported fossil fuels and to help the country meet its climate change commitments.

The nuclear phase-out law was "absolutely wrong," Merkel told a meeting of the CDU with its Bavarian CSU sister party last month.

CDU Secretary-General Ronald Pofalla sees a nuclear renaissance taking shape across Europe and believes Germany, whose nuclear power stations have a good safety record, should be part of it.

With many Germans wary of the country’s increasing reliance on Russian imports of oil and gas, the CDU/CSU sees in nuclear power a vote winner ahead of the next elections which must be held by September 2009.

Germany currently finds itself alone among the Group of Eight (G8) in its negative stance on nuclear power, after Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi announced a return to nuclear power after winning elections in April.