7 Sep 2010

Nuclear power plants to stay online in Germany

5:56 am on 7 September 2010

The coalition government in Germany has decided to extend the life span of the country's nuclear power plants by an average of 12 years.

Some plants will now remain in production until the 2030s, instead of being phased out by 2021 as the previous government wanted.

There will also be new fees on utility companies to fund renewable energy.

Chancellor Angela Merkel argued that renewable sources are not developed enough to abandon nuclear power.

She acknowledged that there were widespread concerns about nuclear energy, but said it was needed as a "bridge technology" until renewables were more viable.

Ministers met for 12 hours on Sunday to discuss the plan, emerging to announce that the older of Germany's 17 nuclear plants will remain in production for eight more years beyond 2021 while more recent ones will stay online for an additional 14 years.

The BBC reports the plan reverses a decision by the previous government - a coalition of the centre-left Social Democrats and the Greens - to shut all nuclear power stations in Germany by 2021.

The coalition also agreed that energy companies would pay a nuclear fuel tax intended to raise 2.3 billion euros ($US3 billion) annually and contribute to a special fund to boost development of renewable energy sources.

Big energy companies oppose the tax and the special fund.