Germany temporarily switching off seven nukes, may rescind longer running times

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Picture: Areas directly endangered in Germany in case of a nuclear fuel meltdown in a German or near-border foreign nuke.


UPDATE: Merkel aims to speed Germany's nuclear energy exit


The emphatically pro-nuclear German government has ordered all seven nuclear power stations that began working up to the end of 1980 to be temporarily taken off-line. After meeting with the premiers of states that have nuclear power plants, Chancellor Angela Merkel announced that in response to the nuclear disaster in Japan, the safety of all 17 German nukes is to be reviewed by 15 June.


Also at the meeting were the federal environment and economics ministers, Norbert Röttgen and Rainer Brüderle, Röttgen saying the atomic power generation law allows for temporary switching off of reactors. Brüderle emphasized that the German power supply was adequate even without the seven switched off plants.


It has not been stated how long the plants will remain off. Röttgen said on Monday he assumes that a reactor switched off during the three-month moratorium would not come back onto the grid at all.


The Bavarian state government wants the controversial Isar 1 plant near Munich closed down permanently, not just for the three months.


The Bavarian environment minister, Markus Söder, conceded that Isar 1, the oldest plant in the state, is inadequately protected against a large civil aircraft crashing into it. A Mirage warplane has already crashed close to the site.


With two important state elections due in 11 days, Merkel faces a resurgence in public fears about nuclear power and angry opposition to it by two out of three Germans.


Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Union party is at risk of losing power in Baden-Württemberg on March 27 in the most important of seven regional elections happening this year.


On Saturday some 60,000 people demonstrated against the continued operation of the ageing Neckarwestheim plant in that state, forming a 45-kilometer human chain from the plant to the city of Stuttgart.


The opposition parties criticize that the government decision doesn’t go far enough. They lambasted it as “eyewash” aimed only at gaining time for the coming elections.


The president of the opposition Social Democratic Party, Sigmar Gabriel, dismisses the moratorium as “a transparent trick aimed only at getting through the state elections”.


The Social Democrats have filed an action in the supreme court to try to force the government to take back longer nuke running times decided late last year.

Sharp criticism came from the people resisting nuclear waste dumping in the northern village of Gorleben.


Here was the chancellor admitting for the first time that nuclear risks aren’t just hypothetical, yet all she offered was suspension of the longer nuke running times rammed through parliament, they argue.


And there was the problem of no safe disposal of waste worldwide. “There will only be safety if all nukes are shut down.”


“With elections looming, the teeny weensy backpedaling by the chancellor on longer running times suggests strongly that the extension is more important to this government than protection against atomic risks.”


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Switzerland is putting all plans for new nukes on ice in response to the happenings in Japan.