German Greens unified on nuclear phase-out

Coalition talks due next week; negotiations with industry likely to resume next year

The German Green Party yesterday agreed to push for the lifetimes of Germany's nuclear power stations to be limited to 30 years, in preparation for talks due next week with their SPD partners in the governing coalition. A renewed series of "consensus" talks between the government and electricity firms is expected in the New Year.

The party's position allows for a three year "preparation period" before the first power station must close, intended to protect the government from any legal action brought by the nuclear power generating industry. This means that that the first power station would close in 2003, one year after the politically sensitive date of the next German elections.

The package also includes a new input tax on nuclear fuel, proposed in part to appease the party's hard-line left wing, as well as higher safety standards, higher levels of liability insurance and stricter controls on waste shipments. A party source stressed that the "decisive levers" were likely to be fuel taxes, safety requirements and abolishing tax relief on reserves set aside by firms for future power station dismantling. The party believes that, if implemented, these conditions would make nuclear power uncompetitive hastening its demise in Germany.

Meanwhile, power firms are continuing to demand maximum reactor lifetimes of 35 years. Moreover, the industry calculates lifetimes in operating years, which excludes down-time, while the Greens want lifetimes to be measured in calendar years.

The Green's position has been attacked by environmental NGOs. Conservation group Nabu described the proposal as "soft as a baby's nappy," while Friends of the Earth Germany (BUND) called it "completely irresponsible" and said that nuclear power should be phased out more quickly.

Follow Up:
German Greens in Parliament, tel: +49 30 227 55518.

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