April 8, 2011 / 4:39 PM / in 7 years

German utilities group favours 2020 nuclear exit

BERLIN, April 8 (Reuters) - The leader of Germany’s BDEW utility industry association said on Friday for the first time that the group favoured a speedy and complete exit from nuclear power by 2020.

Hildegard Mueller, the director of the BDEW, wrote in a guest column to appear in Saturday’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) that the association wants Germany to shut down its nuclear power plants by 2023 at the latest. “The energy companies organised in the BDEW are in favour of a quick and complete exit from nuclear power by 2020,” Mueller wrote, adding it was important that energy production, climate protection and affordability were ensured.

She added that at the latest the last nuclear plant should be taken off line by 2023, as was written into a 2002 law.

Mueller, a close ally to Chancellor Angela Merkel and former leader in her Christian Democrats (CDU) party, wrote that the nuclear crisis in Japan had made a revision of Germany’s nuclear policies unavoidable.

“We agreed on Friday to take a clear position,” she said, adding there had been an intense debate about the issue before the Berlin-based BDEW made its decision.

“Obviously, some individual companies will take their own positions on this decision. That’s legitimate. But it will not cast doubt on the sector’s compromise proposal.”

Utility E.ON (EONGn.DE) said the BDEW was making a mistake by mentioning a concrete exit date. Utility RWE (RWEG.DE) rejected the decision.

Germany gets about 23 percent of its energy from nuclear power.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government on March 15 ordered the shutdown of over 7,000 megawatt (MW) of nuclear capacity until at least June after a tsunami crippled a Japanese plant.

Germany’s temporary closure of seven nuclear reactors may be the precursor for a faster-than-planned exit from nuclear altogether as voter majorities shift against it.

Within days of the disaster in Japan, Merkel’s conservative government said it would reconsider a decision to delay closing the nation’s ageing nuclear stations by an average of 12 years and it ordered wide-ranging security checks.

In the face of growing public hostility, industry experts say the three-month moratorium could lead to permanent closure for the country’s seven oldest plants. (Reporting by Hans-Edzard Busemann; writing by Erik Kirschbaum, editing by Jane Baird)

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