German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday decided to take on anti-nuclear protesters and the country's opposition parties when she and her Cabinet decided to press ahead with plans to extend the life of Germany's nuclear power plants.
Ms. Merkel has consistently argued Germany needs nuclear energy to maintain its impressive recovery. An early termination of nuclear power would be counter-productive since it would erode growth and would prevent Germany from achieving its long-term aim of becoming reliant on purely renewable energy. “We need nuclear power as a form of bridging technology,” said Ms. Merkel. Under current plans, renewable energy will supply half the country's energy needs by 2050.
Hundreds of anti-nuclear protesters staged a noisy rally outside Ms. Merkel's office in Berlin, shouting slogans, carrying placards and blowing into vuvuzelas. They also released hundreds of balloons bearing the skull and crossbones danger sign. Ms. Merkal said the life of Germany's 17 nuclear reactors had to be prolonged by about 15 years to ensure a smooth transition from fuel dependent to renewable forms of energy.
The anti-nuclear movement is traditionally strong in Germany and several Green MPs swore they would lead a “national resistance movement” to counter the Chancellor. The earlier government had pledged to dismantle nuclear reactors by 2023.
Ms. Merkel has seen her popularity take a severe hit this past year. The current upswing in Germany's economic fortunes is expected to shore up her political fortunes but the outcome of the 2013 election is still too far away to predict.