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German government approves plan to go nuclear-free

From Frederik Pleitgen, CNN
  • The cabinet votes to shut down all nuclear power plants by 2022
  • Germany rethought its nuclear strategy after the nuclear catastrophe in Japan in March
  • Parliament must still approve the bill
  • Germany will rely on natural gas among other resources for the time being

Berlin (CNN) -- Germany's government formally approved a plan Monday to close all the country's nuclear power plants by 2022.

The plan was announced last month, after the government rethought Germany's nuclear strategy in the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi meltdown triggered by an earthquake and tsunami.

Parliament must still officially approve the bill.

Minister of Ecology Norbert Roettgen of the Christian Democratic Union party said eight nuclear power stations would remain shut down, while six more would go offline by by the of 2021 "at the latest," and "the three most modern, newest nuclear plants will go offline in 2022 at the latest."

He made the announcement after negotiations with coalition partner, the Liberal Party, which had been opposed to setting a date for decommissioning the nuclear facilities.

Opposition parties have long supported shuttering nuclear energy in Germany

To make up for the loss of nuclear energy, the German government will begin to switch to renewable energy and increase investments in energy research, the government website said.

"But we will not be able to do without conventional power plants, above all cutting-edge gas power plants for a long time," said a statement published in May. "New fruits of new research should contribute to making the energy transition more efficient and easier on the ecology."

In March, German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced she would rethink a plan to extend the lifespan of her country's nuclear power plants.

"The events in Japan have shown us that even things that seem all but impossible scientifically can in fact happen," Merkel said at a Berlin news conference.

Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant was damaged in a March 11 earthquake and tsunami, which has spewed large amounts of radiation into the environment.

At the time, Merkel ordered a review of the nuclear plant safety standards, saying there would be "no taboos in those reviews."