Germany’s nuclear power plants are to stay in service for longer than planned, reversing a decision by the previous left-wing coalition which wanted to shut the industry down by 2021.
Stations will now remain in operation until the 2030s, for an extra 12 years on average.
The government also announced measures to boost renewable energy. But the Chancellor said renewables were not developed enough to abandon nuclear power.
“I know that many people are very sceptical and critical about nuclear power and we take this seriously,” said Angela Merkel. “This is expressed by the fact that we see nuclear energy as a bridging technology – that means it will not be used longer than necessary – and it is expressed by the fact that companies will be obliged to invest large sums into safety over the next few years.”
Hundreds of anti-nuclear protesters demonstrated as ministers met for hours to reach their decision, ending months of wrangling.
The deal forms the basis of Merkel’s broader energy plan to be decided later this month. It means older plants will see an eight-year extension; newer ones will carry on for up to 14 years.
It’s a high risk strategy for the Chancellor, whose government’s already deeply unpopular. Polls suggest a majority of Germans want nuclear power scrapped.
The opposition has threatened legal action if the government tries to push the move through without approval from the Senate.