Germany has 13 pressurised water reactors and 6 boiling water reactors currently in operation, contributing to about one-third of the country’s electricity generation (World Nuclear Association, 2003). Following the reunification of Germany in 1990, all the Russian-designed VVER plants in the East were shutdown for safety reasons.

Following the formation of a coalition government in 1998 between the Social Democratic Party and the Green Party, it was agreed by both parties to introduce legislation to eventually phase out nuclear power. However, a consensus was agreed between the utilities and the government in mid-2000, which would allow the continued operation of the nuclear plants for some years ahead. There was also a government commitment to allow present reprocessing practices and waste disposal operations to continue. In particular, this allowed for reprocessing in France and the UK and the maintenance of two repository projects in Germany.

In mid-2001, an agreement was eventually signed between the energy companies and the coalition government that limited the operational lives of the reactors to an average of 32 years. In practice, some of the less economic plants are likely to be shutdown sooner. The construction of any new nuclear power plants however remains prohibited at present. An additional principle in the agreement is the storage of fuel on-site.

There is some evidence that German public opinion has moved more towards supporting nuclear energy. It remains unclear whether the country’s goals for greenhouse emissions can be achieved without nuclear energy. There is still strong support for Franco — German co-operation in some areas, e. g. in the development of the EPR and in securing the improved safety of Russian-designed reactors via technology transfer.

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