German government debates future of nuclear energy

German government leaders are meeting in
Berlin to debate the future of nuclear energy in the country.

Chancellor Angela Merkel is expected to
seek a compromise in a row over the proposed life cycle of nuclear power
plants.

The politicians will also discuss Ms
Merkel’s plan to levy a nuclear fuel tax on energy companies.

Hundreds of protesters outside the
Chancellery are demanding an end to nuclear power.

Ms Merkel wants to reverse a decision of
the previous government – a coalition of the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD)
and the Greens – to shut down Germany’s 17 nuclear power stations by 2021.

The chancellor has proposed to keep the
plants running for another 10 to 15 years, arguing that renewable energy
sources are not yet sufficiently developed.

However, a row has broken out within the
centre-right coalition and parliament about the best life span for the plants.

The government also faces protests by
the big energy companies against a proposed nuclear fuel tax.

They have threatened to sue the government
or shift investments abroad if the tax is implemented.

The big utilities also oppose Ms
Merkel’s plans that they should contribute to public funds promoting renewable
energy.

The opposition Social Democrats have
said that they will sue the government if it extends the life span of nuclear
power stations without the consent of the upper house of parliament, the
Bundesrat , which represents the German states.

Ms Merkel has said that she aims for a
decision that would enable her to circumvent the Bundesrat, where the
conservative-liberal coalition has lost its majority.

Opinion polls suggest a majority of
Germans would support an end to nuclear power generation.

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