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Germany to replace nuclear power with renewable sources

| Tuesday, May 31, 2011

BERLIN -- Europe's economic powerhouse, Germany, announced plans on Monday to abandon nuclear energy over the next 11 years, outlining an ambitious strategy after Japan's Fukushima disaster to replace atomic power with renewable energy sources.

Chancellor Angela Merkel said she hopes the transformation to more solar, wind and hydroelectric power serves as a roadmap for other countries.

"We believe that we can show those countries who decide to abandon nuclear power -- or not to start using it -- how it is possible to achieve growth, creating jobs and economic prosperity while shifting the energy supply toward renewable energies," Merkel said.

Merkel's government said it will shut down all 17 nuclear power plants in Germany -- the world's fourth-largest economy and Europe's biggest -- by 2022. The government had no estimate of the overall cost of the transition.

The decision represents a remarkable about-face for Merkel's center-right government, which only last year pushed through a plan to extend the life span of the country's reactors, with the last scheduled to go offline about 2036.

But Merkel, who holds a Ph.D. in physics, said industrialized, technologically advanced Japan's "helplessness" in the face of the Fukushima disaster made her rethink the technology's risks.

The decision still requires parliamentary approval.

Germany's initiative received a skeptical reception abroad.

French Prime Minister Francois Fillon, whose country relies on nuclear power to produce 80 percent of its electricity supply, insisted "there's no way" for the European Union to meet its emission-cutting targets without at least some nuclear power.

"We respect this decision, but it doesn't cause us to change our policy," Fillon said. France operates more than one-third of the nuclear reactors in the EU.

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