German Chancellor Angela Merkel has described her country's decision to close its nuclear plants as "absolutely wrong." The words were her most forthright on the matter to date.
Merkel took office in 2004 as leader of the Christian Democrats, (CDU) which formed a coalition with the Social Democrats (SPD). She inherited the 'Nuclear Exit Law' as written by the previous coalition government led by the Gerhard Schroeder's Social Democrats (SPD) and including the Green Party.
Now, Merkel has said the phase-out decision was "absolutely wrong," during a meeting of the CDU and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union, according to a Deutsche Welle report. Merkel has previously called for a sensible course on energy in Germany, in response to desires to stop using the coal-fired and nuclear power plants which together supply 73% of electricity.
At yesterday's press conference with French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Straubing, Bavaria, Merkel was asked how long the phase-out policy would continue. She responded that the questioner was "with her, in a difficult position" before reminding the audience that the SPD still support the phase out.
Merkel highlighted Germany's isolation on the topic of nuclear energy among its G8 peers, all of which now openly support nuclear energy following policy changes in Italy and the UK. She added that Bavaria gets 60% of its electricity from nuclear power plants and that is meant to stop in just 12 years "although our nuclear power plants are safe and among the best in the world."
German reactors hold the first eight positions in Nuclear Engineering International's league table of the reactors that have generated the most electricity to date. Furthermore, it is a German unit that has the highest load factor of any power reactor in the world, performing at an average of 93.4% over its 18-and-a-half year life.
Merkel concluded that debate on the topic of nuclear power must begin once again.
Merkel's party may be the dominant partner in the governing coalition, but the SPD are sticking to the phase-out decision. She said that her personal conviction is not capable of changing the coalition's policy.
Germany will elect a new government around September 2009. Deutsche Welle speculated that Merkel's CDU may wish to partner for the contest with the liberal Free Democratic Party, which supports overturning the nuclear phase-out.