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Japan nuclear crisis sends ripples across Europe, causes rethink in Germany

The Japan nuclear crisis has 'consequences for the whole world,' German Chancellor Angela Merkel said today ahead of an emergency EU meeting on nuclear power.

By Isabelle de PommereauCorrespondent / March 14, 2011

Antinuclear protesters demonstrate in front of the German Chancellery in Berlin, March 14. Germany has suspended a coalition agreement to delay closing the nation's ageing nuclear power stations, Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Monday after the Japanese crisis stiffened opposition to an unpopular deal. The banner reads, 'Thank you for a radiant future.'

Tobias Schwarz/Reuters

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Frankfurt

Japan's nuclear crisis is sending ripples of unease across Europe, with the European Union convening an emergency meeting Tuesday to discuss safety measures for its nuclear power plants and Germany announcing a total rethink of its use of nuclear energy.

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Chancellor Angela Merkel today suspended a plan to prolong the lifespan of Germany's 17 nuclear power plants, which are among 195 across a continent still haunted by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster 25 years ago. Britain, Switzerland, and Finland also announced reassessments of their nuclear programs.

"Everything will be reviewed," Ms. Merkel said at a press conference in Berlin. "If a highly developed country like Japan, with high safety standards and norms, cannot prevent the consequences for nuclear power of an earthquake and a tsunami, then this has consequences for the whole world."

IN PICTURES: Japan's 8.9 earthquake

This nation's wariness of nuclear power is exemplified in the small village of Biblis on the Rhine River, home to Germany's oldest nuclear reactor. While the plant is the village's biggest employer, many here were still incensed last fall when Merkel pledged to extend the life of the nation's nuclear power plants by 12 years beyond their original shutdown date in 2021 – breaking a popular deal forged by her predecessor, Gerhard Schröder, to bring a "comprehensive and irreversible" end to nuclear power here.

Resident Erhard Renz felt betrayed, angry, and ready to protest.

And now with the unfolding nuclear crisis in Japan, Mr. Renz has done just that, joining upwards of 50,000 Germans on Saturday in a 25-mile-long human chain from Stuttgart to Neckarwestheim nuclear plant to call for their nation to shutter its nuclear facilities.

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