German Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative-led coalition announced plans yesterday to close all the country's atomic power plants by 2022, in a move that put the seal on a policy U-turn in the immediate aftermath of Japan's Fukushima nuclear disaster.
The decision — which makes Germany the biggest industrial power to completely renounce atomic power as an energy source — will include a planned 10% reduction in electricity consumption and a doubling of renewable energy sources to 35% by 2020.
Announcing the move Mrs Merkel, who only nine months ago put forward plans to extend the use of nuclear power, declared: “Our energy system has to fundamentally change and can be fundamentally changed. We want electricity to be safer and, at the same time, reliable and economical.”
In a sudden response to the crisis at the Fukushima nuclear plant triggered by the March 11 tsunami, Ms Merkel ordered the immediate shutdown of the seven oldest of Germany's 17 reactors and set up a panel to review the use of nuclear power.
The disaster triggered anti-nuclear protests across Germany, and led to a dramatic rise in support for the Green party. Some 56% of Germans are opposed to nuclear power. Critics nevertheless accused Ms Merkel of giving in to popular pressure.