Pledge to end nuclear power

Germany`s new coalition government has agreed a plan to phase out the country`s 19 nuclear power stations. The Social Democrats (SDP) and the Greens will start talks with the nuclear industry on decommissioning the plants, some of which have the majority of their working life still to run.

No firm timetable has been set, and Chancellor Gerhard Schröder has said that it will take at least 30 years for the process to be completed. Nuclear power generates around 30 per cent of Germany`s electricity.

An agreement on a timetable between industry and the coalition is a potential stumbling block. Talks are scheduled to begin this month but nuclear utilities have already expressed strong opposition to the plans. Viag has stated that early closure of plants would be indefensible to its shareholders.

The company most exposed is Bayenwerk, which generates as much as 70 per cent of its profits from nuclear energy. Bayenwerk is followed by PreussenElektra (65 per cent) and RWE (23 per cent).

Juergen Tritten of the Greens, tipped to be the next environment minister, has stated that the coalition will legislate anyway in the event of no agreement being reached with the industry.

– The Swiss government has made a formal decision to close its nuclear power plants. The deadline will be set after discussions between plant operators, authorities and environmentalists. The country has already imposed a moratorium on nuclear development after 2000.