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Merkel Takes Germany From Nuclear Energy to Green

The German chancellor is accelerating the country’s switch from atomic power to green energy at tremendous expense

Nuclear plants supplied about one-quarter of Germany’s power before the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan triggered a meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. The disaster turned the German public against atomic energy, and Chancellor Angela Merkel immediately closed the country’s eight oldest reactors. Although a phaseout of nuclear energy in Germany had been planned before Fukushima, Merkel decided to speed up the shuttering of the nine remaining reactors by about a decade, to 2022. The government is planning to get 80 percent of its electricity from renewables by 2050, up from about 23 percent now. The energy switch “is without precedent in our country,” says Peter Altmaier, the federal minister for the environment, nature conservation, and nuclear safety, who is running the project. “We are changing profoundly and completely a structure that has developed over 150 years.”