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German nuclear debate bolsters Greens

German nuclear debate bolsters Greens
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More than ever before, saying ‘No Thanks’ to Nuclear is all the rage in Germany.

Anti-nuclear campaigners laid siege to Germany’s Bundestag in September where MPs were in the process of extending the life of Germany’s atomic power stations.

The text had been trimmed to pass not only the lower house but also the upper house, the Bundesrat, where Angela Merkel’s centre-right coalition had lost control in May.

Germany’s 17 nuclear power stations had been due to be decommissioned in 2021, but now- on average- their lifespan has been extended about 12 years, pushing their closure to 2033.

In 2001, the coalition between Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s SPD and the Greens signed a landmark deal — with the agreement of the nuclear industry — for the gradual shutdown of Germany’s atomic power stations.

It was too important a victory for the Greens and the anti-nuclear movement to let go without a fight.

Bolstered by popular opinion in Germany — which according to the polls is strongly against nuclear power — the movement mobilised with a strength seldom seen in recent years.

Chancellor Merkel had some explaining to do.

“We know that a lot of people are very sceptical and critical about nuclear energy and we do take these worries seriously,” she said. “Because of that we propose using nuclear energy as a bridge technology, that is we won’t use it for longer than is necessary.”

Germans’ abhorrence of nuclear power was cemented by the Chernobyl disaster in 1986, giving added impetus to the Green Party.

And opposition is being taken to the heart of political power in Germany. Last week the former agriculture minister in Schroeder’s government, Renate Künast, announced she would stand as a candidate to become Mayor of Berlin.

It is a measure of how the Greens have transformed themselves since the late 1970s from a pressure group into a political force at the heart of federal government.