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Germany To Seek Nuclear Energy End

October 15, 1998

BONN, Germany (AP) _ Pledging to pull the plug on nuclear energy in Germany as promised, the newly elected Social Democrats and Greens announced Thursday they will open talks next year with utility companies on a timetable for closing the country’s 19 atomic power plants.

Even before the talks get underway, they will prepare the legal grounds for the shutdowns. They gave themselves 100 days after taking office late this month to pass laws enshrining the principle of a nuclear-free Germany.

The announcement comes as the Social Democrats and Greens work to form a center-left coalition.

Both parties want to rid Germany of what they consider a dangerous form of energy but disagree on how fast to move toward that goal. The small, environmentalist Greens party wanted plant closings to start immediately, whereas Chancellor-elect Gerhard Schroeder has talked about a process lasting as long as three decades.

In a compromise, the two parties set November 1999 as the deadline for reaching agreement with industry over the pace of shutdowns. If no consensus can be reached by then, Greens party leader Juergen Trittin said, the new government will legislate a timetable.

Although the agreement left that final timetable undefined, the Greens expressed satisfaction.

``This is the exit from atomic energy,″ Trittin declared, insisting ``a series of atomic power plants will go off line in this legislative period,″ or the next four years.

The decision means that Germany, where nuclear fission was discovered in 1938, will be one of the first Western nations to begin abandoning the technology.

One-third of Germany’s electricity is produced by nuclear energy. Power companies argue shutting them prematurely would result in higher prices and force them to rely more on oil and coal, creating more pollution.

They also warn it could cost thousands of jobs, not just at nuclear plants, but in research and development. Germany is one of the world’s largest exporters of nuclear power technology.

Share prices of German utilities fell sharply on news of the deal.

``We have always said that we wouldn’t turn our back on consensual talks,″ said Hermann Venghaus, spokesman for industry giant RWE. ``But we have always held the standpoint that nuclear energy ... should continue to play an important role in the energy mix.″

The Social Democrats hope to avoid mandated closings as German utilities have threatened to sue for the loss of facilities previous governments urged them to develop.

In Sweden, where the government wants to close all nuclear plants by 2010, attempts to turn off the first one this year have so far been blocked in court.

In other developments:

_The Social Democrats and Greens agreed to let the new parliament debate whether to proceed with a decade-old plan to build a national Holocaust Memorial in Berlin.

Schroeder and his designated culture czar, Michael Naumann, have expressed doubts about the memorial. Outgoing Chancellor Helmut Kohl, one of its staunchest backers, put the sensitive project on hold before the Sept. 27 election, saying he didn’t want it to become a campaign issue.

_Kohl’s Christian Democrats criticized a major policy departure announced by the incoming government Wednesday, saying parts of the plan to liberalize Germany’s citizenship law could be unconstitutional.

CDU legal expert Rupert Scholz said allowing dual-citizenship on a broad basis would give those who receive it ``massive advantages″ over Germans with just one passport.

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