(NaturalNews) The fourth-largest economy in the world is accelerating a plan to end the use of nuclear power by as early as 2020, following the nuclear meltdown situation at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan. Citing what they say are the inherent dangers posed by nuclear energy production, German officials stated that their country will phase out the 23 percent of overall energy currently produced by nuclear reactors and replace it with energy produced by alternative sources.
In Berlin, officials marked the shift of this nuclear phase-out plan into the fast lane by shutting down seven of the city's 17 nuclear reactors for three months in order to conduct needed safety inspections. They even suggested in interviews that some of the oldest of the seven reactors could remain offline for good.
Germany is particularly sensitive to the threats posed by nuclear energy production after having endured the negative effects of Chernobyl's radioactive clouds back in 1986. But its plans may not reach very far beyond its own borders, as neighboring France, which derives more than 70 percent of its power from nuclear reactors, has no plans to ever abandon nuclear power. And several other surrounding EU nations have no immediate plans to phase out nuclear power, either.
Even so, Germany's efforts to convert to safer energy production sources is noteworthy, and sets a precedent for other developed nations of the world to follow. If Germany, with its limited sun and wind advantages, can make practical and focused efforts to convert to alternative energy sources, then so can countries like the US that have an even more advantageous opportunity.
"If we had the winds of Texas or the sun of California, the task here would be even easier," said Felix Matthes from the German Institute of Applied Ecology (IAE). "Given the great potential in the US, it would be feasible there in the long run too, even though it would necessitate huge infrastructure investments."
According to some experts, Germany's conversion to alternative energy sources will result in "significantly higher electricity prices" for customers, but IAE says that with the right technological and infrastructure improvements, energy costs will only increase by about 0.5 cents per killowatt-hour (kWh).