Global General

Germany to suspend nuclear extension plan

Updated: 2011-03-14 21:21
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BERLIN -- German Chancellor Angela Merkel will on Monday suspend for several years a deeply unpopular plan to delay closing the nation's nuclear power stations, due to the crisis at a Japanese plant, sources in her coalition said.

The sources gave no further details but Focus magazine said on its website that Merkel had decided on Sunday to suspend last year's coalition agreement extending the life of nuclear plants.

Focus Online said Merkel had won approval on Monday from the leadership of her own Christian Democrats (CDU).

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Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, who leads the Free Democrats, her junior coalition partner, said earlier on Monday that such as move was possible.

Asked by reporters if last year's coalition decision might be temporarily suspended, Westerwelle said: "I can imagine that." The further operation of every single nuclear plant in Germany could not be guaranteed, he added.

Merkel faces a backlash against her government's nuclear policy, deeply unpopular among Germans, before elections the southwestern state of Baden-Wuerttemberg later this month. Her conservative CDU party risks losing power in the state, due partly to rising support for the Greens.

The government had decided to keep Germany's ageing nuclear plants running for about 12 years beyond their original shutdown date, despite large-scale protests even before the earthquake and tsunami hit Japan on Friday.

Germany's 17 nuclear power stations are operated by E.ON, RWE, EnBW and Vattenfall.

Germany had been due to go nuclear free after the last plant reached the original end of its life in 2021 but pressure, largely from the power industry, grew to keep the stations open.

Last year's agreement was supposed to end months of division in the coalition on the issue.