Executives from Germany’s four largest power companies, E.on, RWE, EnBW and HEW, have signed an agreement with the federal government that formalises the timetable for shutdown of the country’s 19 operating nuclear reactors. Stade KKS will be the first plant to close, in 2003, with the others following suit during the period 2003 to 2020. The agreement is based on last year’s compromise deal worked out between the industry, and environment minister Jürgen Trittin. The opposition party, the Christian Democratic Union, has promised to reverse the decision if it wins next year’s elections.

Despite the rapidly firming political pressure for closure, representatives of the German electricity utilities made plain, during two recent conferences, their expectation that nuclear energy would in future be reconsidered as necessary in Germany. The president of VDEW, Günter Marquis, during the publication of the VDEW annual report, said that the phasing out of nuclear energy would be in contradiction of the climate protection aims of the Federal government. A similar statement was made at Dresden on May 15 by Gert Maichel, a director of RWE Power. He said he could see no signs of other countries following this example, but that there was no better course than to try to make an arrangement with the government to guarantee the smooth operation of German nuclear plants for the near term.

l Under pressure from the Bavarian government and after protests from opposition parties E.on, afraid for its reputation in Bavaria, has decided to cancel its electricity delivery contract with the Czech utility CEZ and will no longer receive power from the nuclear plant at Temelin.