Mon, 03/14/2011 – 06:34 —
Chancellor Angela Merkel shut down seven nuclear power plants following the meltdown at Japanese reactors and protests against nuclear energy in Germany.
Merkel said she ordered an investigation that would take three months to complete before returning to its plans to extend the running time of stations.
She said that this would mean that the seven oldest reactors will be turned off, at least temporarily, almost immediately.
Merkel said that the risks of a meltdown at the Fukushima atomic reactors in Japan, triggered by the massive earthquake and subsequent tsunami in the region, had shown the world that nuclear safety should be reevaluated.
Over the weekend, tens of thousands of Germans joined hands and called for an immediate nuclear shut-down. Even though Germany and Europe are unlikely to experience a magnitude 8.9 earthquake or a tsunami, Merkel said, the Fukushima example had shown that Japanese state-of-the-art safety precautions were not infallible.
“That changes the situation, even in Germany. We have a new situation, and this must be analyzed wholeheartedly, without reserve and completely. Only then can decisions follow,”Merkel said.
She appeared alongside the leader of her Free Democrat coalition ally, Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, then alluded to the extra safety checks commissioned for all 17 of the country’s nuclear power plants on Saturday, promising that there would be “no taboos” in these inspections.
About 40,000 people formed a human chain from the Neckarwestheim nuclear plant to the city of Stuttgart on Saturday, the news agency AP reported.
The activists, holding flags with slogans reading “Nuclear power! No thanks,” were protesting against the German government’s decision to extend the operational life of several of the country’s older nuclear power plants, the wire service said.
A government crisis team is also set to meet in Berlin to discuss the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, the German weekly Der Spiegelreported.
The Fukushima plant in Japan was damaged by Friday’s 8.9-magnitude earthquake, and due to a radiation leak, radioactivity at the facility is reportedly now 20 times higher than normal levels.
Germany had previously decided to shut down all its nuclear plants by 2021, but in October 2010 it decided to extend the life of 17 nuclear power plants to 12 more years.
For decades there has been a stable and absolute majority in the polls in Germany against the use of nuclear energy. And in the last year there was a new upturn of the movement with a new generation of young activists.
The mobilizations of last year against the transports of nuclear waste had been the biggest for more than 15 years.
The former government of the Social Democrats and Green Party some years ago passed a law, which limited the running time of the existing nuclear plants.
But the law made it easy for the following government to change it.So the current government argued, that the nuclear plants are needed in order to fight climate change.