In Germany, fresh claims about nuclear contamination have threatened to derail the Christian Democrats election campaign.
The Enviroment Minister said the CDU government in the 1980’s tampered with a report to play down the risks of using Gorleben as a permament site for atomic waste. It is claimed that under the leadership of then Chancellor Helmut Kohl, Germany’s research ministry asked the federal agency in charge to alter its findings about the site. According to the agency’s report at the time there was a risk that radioactive substances could seep into the ground water, making the site unsuitable for long-term storage. The German daily, Suddeutsche Zeitung first published the revelations earlier this week. Yesterday, Environment Minister, Sigmar Gabriel, a Social Democrat, upped the ante by calling for an inquiry: “We need a total open and transparent procedure, and not this hide and seek game and secret diplomacy, that has been performed concerning Gorleben in the past.” But the former Research Minister is rejecting claims of a cover-up. “I don’t know whether the report had been altered, because I haven’t seen this report neither in its earlier state nor in its later state, and that is none of my business. A ministry works like this: we rely on those who do the work,” said Heinz Riesenhuber. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s camp has pledged to complete checks of all Gorleben files, dating back to the 1980’s but serious damage may already have been inflicted on her party, which has made clear its continuing support for nuclear power. Although Germany’s remaining 17 reactors are scheduled to go offline by 2020 – the CDU party wants to revise the law and extend their operating life. The use of nuclear energy is not the explosive issue it once was for the German electorate, with polls suggesting only 7 percent of Germans back the government’s proposals.