Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Merkel Offers Defense of Shift Away from Nuclear

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

Merkel Offers Defense of Shift Away from Nuclear

Article excerpt

In the face of growing criticism that the shift is moving too slowly, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is defending her government's decision to phase out nuclear power by 2022.

In the face of mounting criticism that the shift is moving too slowly, the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, is defending her government's decision to phase out nuclear power by 2022 and replace it with renewable energy sources.

Ms. Merkel made the decision nearly a year ago, after a devastating earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011, caused a meltdown at the nuclear power plant in Fukushima, Japan. The accident prompted soul-searching about the wisdom of relying on nuclear power worldwide.

Within three months of the meltdown, Ms. Merkel's government agreed to take the nation's first eight reactors off line; the remaining nine are to follow over the next 10 years.

Now Ms. Merkel is facing criticism from members of the opposition and environmental organizations who say the government has not moved quickly enough to meet Germany's target of drawing 35 percent of its energy from renewable sources. Last year, Germany generated 20 percent of its energy from renewable sources.

The Social Democrats, the largest opposition party in Germany's Parliament, have charged that Ms. Merkel's government lacks a comprehensive plan to transform the energy market.

"After deciding to exit nuclear energy, it seems as if Ms. Merkel's coalition stopped its work," said Sigmar Gabriel, a former environment minister and leader of the Social Democrats. "There is great danger that this project will fail, with devastating economic and social consequences."

In her weekly podcast, Ms. Merkel conceded that "of course, we need a lot of new investment" for the plan to be carried out. But she insisted that her decision was "the right" choice.

Legislation on the expansion of the country's energy grid, which is desperately needed to carry electricity generated by wind parks in Germany's north to industrial areas in the south, will be given "absolute priority" and passed in June, she said. …

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