The Associated Press
BERLIN (December 14, 2001 03:19 p.m. EST http://www.nandotimes.com)
The parliament approved a plan Friday to shut down Germany's 19 nuclear power plants within 20 years, the final hurdle for a pledge Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder made to the environmentalist Greens party.
The law, signed by Schroeder in June, was passed by the lower house of parliament with votes from the coalition government of Schroeder's Social Democrats and the Greens. It does not need approval in the upper house. The leading opposition party, the conservative Christian Democrats, had argued that eliminating nuclear energy would force Germany to use dirtier power sources.
Germany is the world's largest industrialized nation to forgo the technology willingly.
Eliminating nuclear power has been a pet cause of the Greens, which for years backed protests focused on halting nuclear waste transports. The new legislation will end those transports by mid-2005.
Social Democratic lawmaker Horst Kubatschka called the passage a "great reform" by the governing coalition.
Under the new legislation, the first of the plants will be closed in 2003 and the last in 2021; nuclear waste will be permitted to be stored in the plants for up to 40 years.
The measure includes a ban on the building of new nuclear power plants and regular safety checks until the current ones are taken off-line. The plants currently provide nearly a third of Germany's electricity.