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Press Release

German Nuclear Suicide Decision Arouses Furor

June 2011

WEF/ Hager

German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the Davos forum on Jan. 27-28, pledging to uphold the common European currency at any cost.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's announcement May 30 that she would pursue the policy of shutting down all of Germany's nuclear power plants by 2022—an act of national economic suicide—has caused a furor throughout Germany and Europe.

German industry has intensified its criticism of Berlin's anti-nuclear policy drive, for example, Dieter Zetsche, chief executive of carmaker Daimler, warned that Berlin's decision posed "the risk that we will turn our backs on an affordable energy supply." Hans-Peter Keitel, head of the BDI industry association, said it was already certain that electricity prices would rise. RWE, the power generator, said the company was looking at legal possibilities to counter the government's move.

Also the CDU's council of party-affiliated companies, said Merkel's "go-it-alone" nuclear policy in Europe may add billions of euros to power bills paid by industry and consumers. "I've heard lots about a phase-out of nuclear power but little about the costs of phasing in renewable energy," its president Kurt Lauk told reporters in Berlin already this past week.

French leaders are totally puzzled by the German move. Anne Lauvergeon, CEO of France's nuclear firm AREVA, told BFM radio May 30 that the German move was irrational. "There was no referendum, no official opinion poll, although the (select) opinion polls show the sentiments of the Germans." Lauvergeon added, that she does not share the opinion of German Environment Minister Norbert Roettgen, who called the anti-nuclear decision "irreversible" in Berlin.

Also, the international media are stirred up. Bloomberg writes: "Germany is Europe's largest power market, followed by France, both being closely interconnected, so that abrupt changes on the German side will also hit France, considerably: Germany last year was a net exporter of power to France, sending 16.1 terawatt-hours to the country compared with imports of 9.4 terawatt-hours, according to data published by grid operator, Réseau de Transport d'Electricité."

In Britain, the Daily Telegraph's Daniel Johnson wrote that Merkel's "no" to atomic power was a "cynical example in Realpolitik," because on the one hand, she continually stresses she does not want to dump nuclear power altogether, but she is doing it nevertheless.

Diplomatic tensions are preprogrammed in Europe, Johnson warns:

"Germany is the largest economy in Europe and the European Union has a habit of imposing German prejudices on the rest of its member states. Enemies of nuclear energy will be emboldened to pressurize other governments, including our own [U.K.], to follow the German lead.... The grandchildren of the Nazis, born long after the war, have made the fatal mistake of identifying evil with a particular technology, rather than with the human beings who make use of it...."

Johnson concluded:

"Mrs. Merkel's appeasement of nuclear hysteria, is disturbing far beyond Germany's borders because it represents a capitulation to irrationalism by the leader of a nation that once led the world in science and technology. The land of Leibniz and Humboldt, of Goethe and Gauss, is now indulging the fantasies of cynical scaremongers."

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