Merkel Confident on Nuclear Plan
Source: Reuters, Peter Dinkloh and Vera Eckert (9/6/10)
"Merkel moves to extend German nuclear reactor life spans by 12 years."
Merkel's center-right ruling coalition ended months of division Sunday by agreeing Germany's 17 nuclear power plants should operate longer than planned, giving each reactor an average extension of about 12 years.
Welcomed by utilities, the deal addresses concerns in the coalition and industry over the fate of the plants, the last of which was due to shut by 2021.
"I am in good spirits that it would stand up against potential lawsuits," Merkel said. "We believe we can get this into law without (upper house) approval."
Not all laws need to be passed by the Bundesrat upper house, which represents the 16 federal states, and legal opinion is divided on whether the extension requires its approval.
The opposition Social Democrats (SPD) and the Greens immediately said they planned a legal challenge to Merkel's attempts to sidestep the upper house, which Merkel's coalition controlled until a regional election defeat in May.
The German public strongly opposes building new nuclear power plants and there is a major protest planned for September 18 against the plan to extend their operating life span.
More than half of Germans surveyed consistently oppose extending the reactors' life spans, opinion polls show. They are against the extensions due to memories of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, and concerns over nuclear security and waste storage.
To sweeten the deal, the government said it would raise some 30 billion euros ($38.6 billion) from utilities in the years ahead, which would be used to cut budget deficits and to expand renewable energy.