Germany to close all nuclear plants by 2022

By Judy Dempsey and Jack Ewing of NYTimes

BERLIN — The German government on Monday announced plans to shut all of the nation’s nuclear power plants within the next 11 years, a sharp reversal for Chancellor Angela Merkel after the Japanese disaster at Fukushima caused an electoral backlash by voters opposed to reliance on nuclear energy.

The plan calls for phasing out all of Germany’s 17 nuclear reactors — eight of which are offline — and expanding the use of renewable resources. The decision was based on recommendations of an expert commission appointed after the Japanese disaster to study an industry that generates 23 percent of Germany’s electricity.

“It’s definite — the latest end for the last three nuclear plants is 2022,” said Norbert Röttgen, the environment minister.

The announcement, which still faces legislative approval, was applauded by environmentalists and expected to be popular among voters. But it was greeted skeptically around Europe and within German industry. Some predicted it could harm economic growth, force Germany to import nuclear power from France, or even inflate the cost of energy across the continent.

“If the government goes ahead with what it said it would do, then Germany will be a kind of laboratory for efforts worldwide to end nuclear power in an advanced economy,” said Mark Hibbs, a senior associate in the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington. “No other country in the world is taking those steps.”

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