Merkel eyes an extra decade of nuclear power

By Matt Zuvela

Chancellor Angela Merkel has weighed in on Germany's ongoing nuclear energy debate, saying the country needs to run its nuclear energy plants for at least 10 more years to keep energy costs down and ensure demand is met.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel foresees keeping Germany's nuclear power plants running for at least another decade past their current phase out date.

In 2002, the then-ruling SPD-Greens coalition passed a law that said all of Germany's nuclear power plants were due to go off line by 2022.

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But Merkel, coming off a recent tour of energy facilities around Germany, said in an interview with public broadcaster ARD that "on technical grounds, [an additional] 10 to 15 years is reasonable."
Ensuring energy supplies
The chancellor, citing an independent consultants' report set to be published this week, said such a time frame would ensure Germany's energy needs are met as the country transitions to renewable energy sources. Energy prices would remain under control and goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions would be reached with an extra 10 to 15 years of nuclear power, Merkel added.

merkel "I have to consider, as head of government, how we integrate safety as the overriding principle of nuclear energy," she said.

Sigmar Gabriel, head of the opposition Social Democratic Party, criticized Merkel's decision.

"The chancellor's statement shows that the decision isn't based on a sustainable energy plan but the hard-nosed lobbying work done by nuclear power companies," he told reporters on Sunday.

In a statement on Friday, Merkel said renewable energies should supply half of all energy needs by 2050 and that nuclear and coal power would continue until supplies could be met entirely by clean energy.
Legal question
The debate over extending the running time of Germany's nuclear plants has sparked a deep debate in the German parliament. Merkel said any extension would come in a form that circumvented Germany's upper house of parliament, the Bundesrat.

However, doubts have been raised by the interior and justice ministries that an extension of more than 10 years could be illegal if it were not approved by the Bundesrat, which is made up of the governments of Germany's 16 states.

Germany has 17 nuclear power plants, but it is not certain how many would be given extensions if one is granted.

A poll published on Friday found that 56 percent of Germans are against keeping nuclear power plants beyond 2021.