ANALYSIS-Merkel maps nuclear exit with eye on Green vote

Mon May 30, 2011 3:17pm GMT

* Merkel plans rapid nuclear exit by 2022

* Her coalition struggles as Greens make gains

* Business, conservatives question strategy

By Stephen Brown

BERLIN, May 30 (Reuters) - Angela Merkel's bid to outflank the opposition by closing all nuclear plants by 2022 smacks of opportunism to many Germans but could ease an alliance with the anti-nuclear Greens that may be her best bet to stay in power.

The German chancellor has, in nine months, gone from touting nuclear plants as a safe "bridge" to renewable energy and extending their lifespan to pushing a nuclear exit strategy that rivals the ambitions of the Social Democrats and Greens.

Merkel had her atomic epiphany after the Fukushima disaster in Japan in March, announcing a moratorium on nuclear power and launching an urgent overhaul of German energy policy, resulting in the exit strategy announced on Monday.

Her change of heart, however genuine it may be, coincides with a string of disastrous election results for her Christian Democrats (CDU) and their Free Democrat (FDP) allies that have been partly blamed on her unpopular pro-nuclear policy so far.   Continued...

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