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BERLIN, July 4 (Reuters) - Support for a longer-than-expected extension of the lifetime of Germany's nuclear plants is growing within the country's ruling coalition, a German magazine reported.
In its issue dated July 5, Der Spiegel news weekly said parliamentary floor leaders Volker Kauder, from the conservatives, and Birgit Homburger, of the Free Democrats, had agreed to push for legislation to extend the lifespan by more than 10 years.
Market participants and investors had expected a 10-year extension based on the assumption that anything longer would require approval of the upper house of parliament, in which the coalition recently lost its majority.
But according to the Spiegel report, the two party whips had agreed to back the view of Economy Minister Rainer Bruederle, who has called for a minimum 15-year extension of the lifetimes of Germany's nuclear reactors. The magazine did not cite its sources.
Merkel's conservatives and her Free Democrat (FDP) coalition partners have vowed to change a law passed about 10 years ago by the Social Democrats (SPD) and Greens, now in opposition, which envisages phasing out nuclear power in Germany.
The government had planned to make a decision in July, but experts drawing up a national energy strategy, including plans for the nuclear branch, have indicated they need more time to calculate future energy consumption and energy-mix scenarios.
The coalition originally wanted to add up to 28 years to the reactors' average operating life of 32 years, but the parties have been steadily paring that back. Environment Minister Norbert Roettgen supports a 10-year extension. (Writing by Brian Rohan, editing by Will Waterman)