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Japan Quake Might Decide German Elections

Monday, 14 Mar 2011 | 7:16 AM ET

Two weeks before the regional elections in Baden-Württemberg, a traditional stronghold of Chancellor Angela Merkel´s Conservative party CDU, the nuclear crisis in Japanhas put German nuclear politics at the heart of the political discussions.

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More than 60.000 people took to the street in Stuttgart, the capital of Baden-Württemberg, protesting against Merkel´s deal with the energy industry to extend the lifespan of nuclear power plants by an average of 12 years.

Social democrats (SPD) and the environmental party (Grüne) are now calling for a reversal of the “nuclear-power deal" and for an immediate shutting down of old nuclear power plants, making it one of the most prominent topics in the run-up of the state elections on March 27.

These state elections are a critical test for Merkel´s coalition.

A Forsa opinion poll from March 12 indicated that the race will be very tight. The CDU is running the risk of losing a state it has ruled for 60 years, with the Greens benefiting from nuclear worries.

Merkel ordered a safety review of all 17 nuclear power plants in Germany and has called for meeting with the heads of federal states which host nuclear power plants to discuss the safety issue.

“After the events in Japan, it is not possible to just return to business as usual," she said in an interview with public broadcaster ARD Sunday evening.

"We have to ask ourselves, what we can learn from Japan.” “Nuclear energy clearly is a bridge technology”, she added.

So far, Merkel is sticking to the extension of the lifeline of nuclear power plants.

But her coalition partner — Germany´s foreign minister Guido Westerwelle (FDP) — said the "decision on extending the life of nuclear plants could be suspended,” according to Reuters.

“The pressure on Angela Merkel will increase to undo the nuclear power consensus, which means the extension of the lives of nuclear power plants,” Claudia Kemfert, energy expert at DIW, told CNBC.

Germany`s half state-owned energy agency Dena recommended a return to phasing out nuclear power.

In an interview with Handelsblatt, the head of Dena Stephan Kohler is even calling for the closure of nuclear power plants operational in Germany that are the same type as the troubled Japanese ones.

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