The long-term political fight over Germany's nuclear generating capacity took another interesting turn over the weekend as the government's environment minister proposed shutting the nation's older nuclear power plants in exchange for allowing the country's newer units to operate longer:
The German Environment Minister, Sigmar Gabriel, has called for seven of the country's oldest nuclear reactors to be closed down immediately.As I'm sure many of you already recall, the government led by Prime Minister Angela Merkel is a coalition comprised of Social Democrats and Christian Democrats -- and in this case the Prime Minister and her environment minister are on opposite sides of the divide.
Justifying his demand, Mr Gabriel pointed to recent breakdowns at two ageing nuclear plants.
Germany is committed to phasing out nuclear power by 2020.
Mr Gabriel told a German newspaper that it would be of great technical benefit from the safety standpoint to close the oldest reactors now.
As a trade-off, newer reactors could be kept running longer.
In any case, this proposal sound a lot like a plan that was floated by the owners of Neckarwestheim I nuclear generating station back in December 2006. Then again, a lot has changed since then, especially if Merkel is able to lead her party to victory in the next election without the help of the Social Democrats -- something that might mean overturning the German nuclear phaseout completely.
For more on reaction to the proposal, see Spiegel Online. For our archive of posts on Germany, click here.
UPDATE: In case you missed the official response from Merkel's party, here it is:
The party's general secretary, Ronald Pofalla, rejected Gabriel's latest proposal.
"It is not a case of old or new, but of safe or not," Pofalla said on ZDF television. He argued that there were no indications that the plants in question failed to comply with the required safety standards.