Schröder signals flexibility on nuclear talks

Chancellor offers to replace fixed station life limits with cap on industry's power output

German chancellor Gerhard Schröder has caused a new flurry of debate over the government's nuclear power phase-out policy by suggesting he might be ready to drop previous demands that no atomic station should run for more than 30 years. In a newspaper interview on Monday, Mr Schröder said the government would consider limiting the industry's total generation of power instead. He went public on the issue as the latest round of talks with the nuclear industry approach their climax.

The new proposal is in line with operators' demands for a limit on output rather than on reactor lifetimes (ENDS Daily 7 February). But it remains unclear whether the shift will bring the two sides closer together since Mr Schröder stressed that the government would calculate the production cap in such a way that the average maximum power station life would remain 30 years. He added that the government would also seek to impose a fixed date by which every station would have to be closed.

German press analysis of the chancellor's statement also suggests that the greater flexibility may be more apparent than real. Nuclear operators want to be allowed to generate another 3,000 terawatt hours (TWh) of electricity before final phase-out; according to newspapers, the government's calculation would mean a limit of 2,000 TWh. Newspapers also report that the fixed date for a complete end to nuclear power generation in Germany could be 2018 - no later than it would have been under the government's previous plan.

Follow Up:
Financial Times Deutschland, tel: +49 40 319 900 and Schröder interview.

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