November 15, 2003
Germany snuffs out nuclear plant
By Stephen Graham
The Associated Press
STADE, Germany — Germany disconnected the first of its 19 nuclear-power plants yesterday, beginning an unprecedented phase-out in a nation heavily dependent on nuclear power.
Technicians at a 32-year-old nuclear plant at Stade near Hamburg switched it off forever at about 8:30 a.m. local time.
Germany is the first major industrialized nation to renounce the technology. Under a deal negotiated after years of wrangling between the government and power-company bosses, all Germany's nuclear reactors are to close by 2020. The phase-out imposes a limit of 32 years on the average operational life of nuclear plants, and bans reactor construction.
The plant's closing sparked celebrations in the environmentalist Greens Germany party.
"The Stade nuclear-power plant was an expensive dead end," Environment Minister Juergen Trittin said before Greens colleagues at a champagne reception in a Berlin art museum. "Nuclear energy has no future in Germany."
Nuclear power provides nearly one-third of Germany's electricity. The government argues that eliminating it will spur utilities to spend billions on new, cleaner-burning natural-gas generators as well as wind turbines and solar panels.
Trittin claimed the longer operating life of reactors in countries such as the United States, which has over 100 licensed nuclear plants, was economically shortsighted.
"That doesn't secure supplies, it just blocks necessary investments (in non-nuclear energy sources)," he said.
In Europe, countries such as Sweden and the Netherlands have also begun phasing out their nuclear plants. Austria mothballed a planned reactor before it opened, and Italy and Denmark also have come out against nuclear power.
Not all European countries have joined the trend, though. France relies heavily on nuclear energy — its 58 nuclear reactors provide more than three quarters of the country's electricity. Finland is planning to build a new nuclear plant, its second, and Soviet-designed plants still are key generators in several Eastern European countries.