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Germany could abandon nuclear power

Germany is determined to take the lead in showing the world how abandoning nuclear energy can be done, betting billions on expanding the use of renewable energy to meet power demands instead.

It is a transition that was supposed to happen slowly over the next 25 years, but is now being accelerated in the wake of Japan's Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant disaster, which Chancellor Angela Merkel has called a "catastrophe of apocalyptic dimensions".

Berlin's decision to take seven of its 17 reactors offline for three months for new safety checks has provided a glimpse into how the world's fourth-largest economy might wean itself from getting nearly a quarter of its power from atomic energy to none.

And experts say Germany's phase-out provides a good map that countries such as the United States, which use a similar amount of nuclear power, could follow.

The German model would not work, however, in countries like France, which relies on nuclear energy for more than 70 percent of its power and has no intention of changing.

"If we had the winds of Texas or the sun of California, the task here would be even easier," said Felix Matthes of Germany's Institute for Applied Ecology.

"Given the great potential in the US, it would be feasible there in the long run too, even though it would necessitate huge infrastructure investments."

Nuclear power has been very unpopular in Germany ever since radioactivity from the 1986 Chernobyl disaster drifted across the country.

Germany currently gets 23 percent of its energy from nuclear power - about as much as the US.

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