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The disaster at Fukushima looks to have sounded the death knell for nuclear power in Germany. Public opinion turned vehemently against the industry in the wake of that crisis, and Chancellor Angela Merkel responded by making promises to wean the nation off nuclear. Now, the government is making good on those promises. Deutchland will be 100% nuclear free in just over 10 years. The New York Times reports:
"It's definite," Environment Minister Norbert Röttgen said after marathon talks held at the chancellery. "The latest end of the last three nuclear plants is 2022."The last of Germany's nuclear power plants will thus be retired in a little more than a decade.
The government said the country's oldest nuclear power plants would remain permanently closed. Seven plants were shut down in March after the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, and one plant had been taken off the grid earlier. The government intends to phase out the remaining nine plants according to their age, with the older facilities shutting down over the next few years and the newest ones by 2022.
Right now, nuclear power constitutes around 20% of Germany's energy production, and the absence of nuke plants will leave something of a hole in the nation's energy supply -- but the government aims to fill it with renewables. The commission in charge of spearheading the transition "identified wind, solar and water as alternatives, as well as geothermal energy and so-called biomass energy from waste, as alternative power sources," according to the Times.
Now, it'd probably be better for the climate if the Germans were to mount such a large-scale draw-down and replacement effort with its coal sector -- as of 2008, coal accounted for about 45% of the nation's electricity production -- but the move demonstrates a high confidence in renewable power to meet demand. For industrialized countries looking to phase out dirty, dangerous, or unpopular energy sources, the path forward is clear.