The environment ministers of Germany’s 16 states agreed on Friday that the country’s seven oldest nuclear reactors should be shut down permanently. These reactors have all been suspended as part of a three month nuclear “moratorium” imposed by Chancellor Angela Merkel following the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan on March 11 this year. Merkel’s government is due to make a final decision on the future of Germany’s nuclear programme on June 6.

A panel of security experts and an ethics advisory board have been considering the future of nuclear energy in Germany, after the Fukushima disaster. Germany operates a total of 17 nuclear reactors, seven of which were built before 1980. The security panel reported last week that all reactors were sufficiently safe against the most conceivable events barring a direct plane crash, perhaps as part of a terrorist attack. The nuclear energy industry, however, has warned against power outages if the nuclear exit strategy is implemented too rapidly. A 2.3 billion Euro ($3.3 billion) nuclear energy tax, intended to fund the development of alternative energies, may also fall victim to a rapid nuclear phase out.

Last year Merkel’s government extended an earlier 2022 deadline to wind down nuclear power generation- a decision her government rapidly reconsidered in the days after the Fukushima reactor was struck by an earthquake and tsunami.