Monday, May 30, 2011 Germany to end nuclear power


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Germany to end nuclear power

Decision to phase out atomic energy by 2022 marks the start of fundamental rethink, Merkel says

Germany yesterday became the first big industrialised power to agree an end to nuclear power in the wake of the disaster in Japan, with a phasing out to be completed by 2022.

Chancellor Dr Angela Merkel said the decision, hammered out by her centre-right coalition overnight, marked the start of a fundamental rethink of energy policy in the world's number four economy. "We want the electricity of the future to be safer and at the same time reliable and affordable," Merkel said. "That means we must have a new approach to the supply network, energy efficiency, renewable energy and also long-term monitoring of the process."

The decision came as the International Energy Agency (IEA) announced that global carbon-dioxide emissions hit a record high last year, dimming the prospects of limiting the global temperature increase to an internationally agreed target of 2 degrees Celsius.

German Environment Minister Norbert Roettgen said the decision to shut down all 17 of its nuclear reactors - eight of which are currently off the electricity grid - was irreversible.

Yesterday's decision means Germany will have to find the 22 per cent of its electricity needs that were covered by nuclear power from other sources such as renewable energy, natural gas and coal-fired plants.

Nuclear opponents criticised the deal yesterday and said they would stage fresh protests next month calling for a faster phasing out.

The crisis at Japan's Fukushima facility after it was damaged by the earthquake and tsunami in March has sparked a renewed global debate about the safety of nuclear power, with opinions differing widely.

Switzerland recently announced it would not build any new nuclear stations - three were in the pipeline - and there have been similar announcements in Italy, Thailand and Malaysia.

Sweden's environment minister criticised Germany's decision, saying it failed to adequately address climate change.

The shock rise in greenhouse gas emissions represented a serious setback to the goal of preventing a temperature rise of more than 2 degrees Celsius - which scientists say is the threshold for potentially "dangerous climate change".

After a dip in 2009 caused by the global financial crisis, emissions are estimated to have climbed to a record 30.6 giga-tonnes, a 5 per cent jump from the previous record year in 2008, when levels reached 29.3Gt, the IEA said. New power plants are set to increase emissions.

Global leaders agreed a target of limiting temperature increase to 2 degrees at UN climate change talks in Cancun, Mexico last year.

"Our latest estimates are another wake-up call," Dr Fatih Birol, chief economist of the IEA, said.

"The world has edged incredibly close to the level of emissions that should not be reached until 2020 if the 2 degrees target is to be attained."

Agence France-Presse, The Guardian

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