A first obstacle for the agreement is ratification by the governing SPD and Green parties. Leading Green figure Antje Radcke said yesterday that the party's demand for a swift "atomic exit" had not been met and that she would recommend the deal's rejection at a conference next week. If she succeeds then the government could be thrown into crisis, even threatening the Greens' continued presence in the coalition.
Environmental groups have also responded with disappointment. Friends of the Earth Germany described the deal as "a consensus at the cost of people and the environment," complaining that nuclear power operators had been granted "special privileges". Greenpeace claimed that the government had been "blackmailed" by the nuclear industry.
On the other side of the fence, the pro-nuclear centre-right government of Bavaria threatened to appeal against the agreement in Germany's constitutional court. State premier Edmund Stoiber further pledged to "overturn the agreement as soon as we return to power".
Underlying the rhetoric are concerns over the phase-out's implications for German emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), the primary greenhouse gas. The 19 currently operating nuclear stations generate over one-third of national electricity demand and avoid CO2 emissions of 170m tonnes per year, according to the nuclear industry.
Very few stations are set to close by 2005, by when the government has pledged to cut CO2 emissions by 25% from 1990 levels. But the prospects for further cuts beyond then look unclear, as demonstrated by a British report on future climate action released today (see separate story, today's issue). New long-term energy forecasts for Germany are expected from the government this autumn.
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