Europe Split on Nuclear Power Debate


"The EU's choice of how to produce electricity lies in the hands of member states."

europe nuclear power
Nuclear power stations Isar 1 and Isar 2 in Essenbach, Germany.

The Japanese nuclear crisis has placed atomic energy back at the top of the political agenda throughout Europe, but opinions are split, with some countries urging immediate shutdowns and others remaining firmly committed to nuclear power.

France, Russia, Turkey, the Czech Republic, Italy and Poland have chosen not to follow the lead of Germany, which has halted nuclear activity, and they have instead criticized calls for immediate shutdowns as rash.

Other European countries that want to build nuclear power plants supported calls for greater safety measures.

French Prime Minister Francois Fillon said the country, which gets more than 75% of its power from nuclear energy, argued that it would be absurd to condemn nuclear energy entirely.

Italian power company Enel SpA said this week that it will stick with Italy's plans to expand nuclear power, and Polish authorities said they remain committed to building two nuclear power plants.

British energy secretary Chris Huhne criticized the shutdown ordered by Germany. German Chancellor Angela Merkel ordered shut seven pre-1980 nuclear reactors for a three-month safety review and froze plans to extend the life of Germany's 17 nuclear reactors. Switzerland followed suit.

Thousands of antinuclear protesters have taken to the streets in Germany this week, and with several regional elections expected in Germany this year, nuclear power is likely to remain a hot-button issue.

European countries that are developing nuclear plants haven't seen as much public furor.

European nuclear operators already face strict regulations and have safety checks in place. But some operators are skeptical of the stress tests, which will be conducted during Europe's summer.

In the EU, the choice of how to produce electricity lies in the hands of member states, with Brussels holding limited direct power over the issue beyond coordinating safety standards. National policies differ widely.

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