The aftermath of the Fukishima disaster saw people all over the world ponder the potential effects of nuclear power. German citizens have been particularly vocal in their criticism, and now after re-examining the country’s 17 nuclear reactors, Chancellor Merkel and the German parliament have announced concrete plans to phase out nuclear energy by 2022, making the country the first major industrial power to take such steps since Japan’s devastating incident.

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The plan was approved in the Bundesrat upper house, which represents Germany’s 16 regional states. The scheme had previously passed the Bundestag lower house with an overwhelming majority vote.

Germany had already taken action in the wake of the Japanese disaster by switching off their seven oldest reactors, and another reactor has been shut down for years due to technical problems. Now Chancellor Angela Merkel has announced plans to officially phase out the remaining nine reactors between 2015 and 2022. The decision, which has come faster than anyone predicted, is sure to find support in Germany where a large number of citizens oppose nuclear power due to the potentials risk involved. Thousands of anti-nuclear demonstrators marched in the streets after Fukushima demanding that the country switch to other sources of power.

As a result, Merkel, who was pro-nuclear, has made a dramatic u-turn after initially extending the operation of the country’s 17 reactors. Of course, there is a drawback — the phase-out of nuclear power plants will mean the construction of new coal and gas power plants, despite the government’s assurance it will still meet its target of cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by 2020 from 1990 levels, and by 80-95 percent by 2050.


Lead photo © Bjoern Schwarz