Germany to shutter nuclear plants

Under political fire, German chancellor Angela Merkel announced that the country would phase out all nuclear power sources by 2022. Is the move too aggressive?

Under political fire, German chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday announced that the country would phase out all nuclear power sources by 2022.

The news comes after a new report by the Ethics Commission for Security Energy recommended that Germany close all 17 of the nation's nuclear plants, eight of which are offline.

It also comes in the extended wake of Japan's Fukushima disaster, which demonstrated a country with heavy reliance on nuclear power.

"We want the electricity of the future to be safe, but also to remain reliable and affordable," Merkel said in a statement.

State environment ministers agreed that the plants should be phased out gradually. But "gradual" may not be gradual enough: with nuclear's reliable, 24/7 power no longer available, the country may be more susceptible to power grid failures during the transition period from nuclear to other sources of power, such as renewables.

(The commission recommended wind, solar, water, geothermal and biomass as alternatives.)

There's also the financial issue. With less power available -- less supply but increasing demand -- the cost of electricity is expected to rise. While that's frustrating for most homeowners, it's even worse for the industrial sector, which uses almost half of the country's power supply.

The big question on everyone's mind: is Germany too aggressively giving up nuclear power, or not quickly enough?

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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