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The BBC's Caroline Wyatt in Berlin
"Fundamentalists and pragmatists battled for the soul of the Green Party"
 real 28k

Friday, 23 June, 2000, 21:52 GMT 22:52 UK
German Greens back nuclear deal
Germany's Foreign Minister, Joschka Fischer
Joschka Fischer managed to win over party delegates
A conference of the German Green Party has voted by a large majority to accept a deal on phasing out nuclear power, negotiated by the government and the electricity industry.

After three hours of heated debate, 433 party delegates voted in favour of the agreement while 227 voted for a counter proposal for a faster pull-out than the one agreed last week by SPD Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

The Biblis nuclear plant i
The Biblis nuclear plant is one of 19 to be shut down

The Greens are part of the federal coalition, but they have long campaigned against the nuclear industry.

Many party members have been critical of the deal because it does not specify a final date for switching off the last nuclear reactor.

Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer - the party's most prominent politician - had earlier warned the party congress that rejection of the deal could endanger their coalition with the SPD.

Historic accord

Mr Fischer said the rest of the world was closely watching Germany's decision gradually to close its nuclear power plants.

He urged the Greens to celebrate the historic accord as a victory, saying he could not believe his party was making itself "laughable" by squabbling over the details.

Nuclear power
Germany has 19 nuclear plants at 14 sites

They produce 170,392 gigawatts of power - a third of Germany's electricity

A 1997 opinion poll found that 81% of Germans were in favour of nuclear power

433 nuclear power stations operate worldwide

France generates 75% of its electricity from nuclear power

"I am absolutely sick of the fact that we continually do ourselves down," he told the congress in the western town of Muenster.

"I wish we would stand up and fight together."

Green Party co-leader Antje Radcke had rejected the deal, as it set no date for the final closure.

"It looks like the Greens have put themselves on a long-term peace footing with nuclear power," she said.

Under the deal, Germany's 19 nuclear power stations will be phased out within a matter of decades.

It means that Germany has become the first leading economic power officially to announce its intention to end the use of nuclear energy.

Mr Schroeder negotiated the agreement with the chief executives of Germany's four leading utilities.

He said nuclear power plants would be shut down after a lifespan of 32 years - longer than the Greens wanted, but less than the industry had demanded.

It means Germany's last nuclear plant could go off-line in about 20 years.

Political opposition

Industry leaders said they regretted the early closures, but accepted "the primacy of the political system".

But the right-wing Christian Democratic Party has threatened to reverse the whole closure policy if it wins power at the next election.

They say that abandoning nuclear energy will mean importing electricity from countries with bad nuclear safety records, or increasing electricity output - and carbon dioxide emissions - from conventional power plants.

Atomic power currently accounts for about 30% of all Germany's energy consumption.

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See also:

15 Jun 00 | Europe
Germany renounces nuclear power
15 Jun 00 | Europe
Germany faces political fallout
15 Jun 00 | Business
Nuclear power nightmare
15 Jun 00 | Europe
Nuclear doubts gnaw deeper
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