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Dublin: 13 °C Monday 22 December, 2014

Germany shutting seven nuclear reactors – temporarily

Japan’s nuclear crisis has sparked international concerns over the safety of older nuclear power plants, as German anti-nuclear protesters take to the streets.

Anti-nuclear demonstrators in Berlin today bear signs saying
Anti-nuclear demonstrators in Berlin today bear signs saying "switch off".
Image: AP Photo/dapd/Axel Schmidt

GERMANY HAS DECIDED TO temporarily suspend operations at seven of its 17 nuclear reactors while the government considers its plans to extend the life of its power stations.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government reversed their predecessor’s plans to shut down all of the country’s reactors and instead extend their use by an average of 12 years.

Merkel met with the governors of all the German states with nuclear power plants before announcing today that Germany will temporarily shut down all of the reactors built before the end of 1980:

Safety is the priority. Those are the criteria by which we acted today.

Safety reviews

The suspension was described as a “precaution” by Germany’s environment minister Norbert Roettgen pending a safety review of all nuclear plants, but Roettgen wouldn’t say if some of those plants would remain permanently closed.

Today, thousands of demonstrators took to the streets in Berlin and other German cities to urge their government to completely shut down its nuclear power plants. Thorben Becker of the Federation for Environmental Protection told CNN that over 100,000 people had turned up at some 400 towns and cities for the protests.

The nuclear crisis in Japan, where radiation has leaked from the earthquake-damaged Fukushima plant, has sparked international concern over the safety of nuclear energy production.

Yesterday, the Swiss government said it was suspending its plans to build and replace nuclear plants until “safety standards have been carefully reviewed and if necessary adapted”. And today the EU is to discuss possible stress tests for nuclear plants across the region in light of Japan’s crisis.

However, nuclear power has been a controversial topic in Germany since the Chernobyl accident in 1986. In November, anti-nuclear activists blocked the route of a train transporting nuclear waste from France to Germany.

- Additional reporting by the AP

Read: Level of radiation at Fukushima’s reactor 4 is ”too high” to allow work in control room

Read: What happens in a nuclear meltdown?

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