German nuclear reactors shut for review

2011-03-15 15:00
Berlin - German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced on Tuesday the provisional shut-down for three months of seven ageing nuclear reactors pending a safety review in light of events in Japan.

"We are launching a safety review of all nuclear reactors ... with all reactors in operation since the end of 1980 set to be idled for the period of the (three-month) moratorium," Merkel said.

This covers seven of Germany's 17 nuclear reactors.

"After this moratorium, which will run until June 15 ... we will know how to proceed," she said following crisis talks in Berlin with premiers of German states where there are nuclear plants.

"We will discuss the possible consequences ... when the moratorium is over, and not today."

On Monday Merkel suspended for three months a postponement of more than a decade until the mid-2030s the date when the last of Germany's nuclear reactors are switched off, pending a safety review.

Under Merkel's predecessor Gerhard Schroeder, Germany decided a decade ago to go nuclear-free by 2020, but after being re-elected to a second term in late 2009 Merkel postponed the switch-off late last year.

But nuclear power is highly unpopular in environmentally conscious Germany, with shipments of radioactive waste regularly attracting angry protests, and the extension is opposed by a majority of voters, surveys have shown.

On Monday large numbers of people worried about nuclear safety - more than 100 000, organisers said - took to the streets nationwide. On Saturday tens of thousands formed a human chain between a nuclear plant and Stuttgart.

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