BERLIN, Sept 7 German Chancellor Angela Merkel
on Sunday called for a decision on where to store radioactive
nuclear material after a scandal over leaks at a depot this week
sparked a row about what to do with atomic waste.
Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel said last week his
ministry would assume responsibility for the Asse facility in
the state of Lower Saxony after he attacked the operators for
presiding over years of leaks of radioactive waste.
A report showed barrels of waste were leaking at the former
salt mine which was converted in the 1960s into a pilot project
for a planned permanent nuclear storage facility at Gorleben,
also in Lower Saxony.
The latest revelations have fed a wider debate about nuclear
energy in Germany.
The Asse scandal raises questions about Gorleben's
feasibility at a time when nuclear operators who are lobbying
the government to reverse a deal to abandon all nuclear power by
2021 must prove that future waste can be stored safely.
Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives, who back nuclear
power, are worried the Asse situation will undermine their calls
for a rethink of the planned phase-out.
Merkel said in an interview on German radio there needed to
be decisions about what to do with highly radioactive material.
"We do also need to make progress in the storage of highly
radioactive material. It's about atomic plants. A moratorium has
been agreed for Gorleben and of course decisions must be made on
how things go from here," Merkel told Deutschlandfunk radio.
GORLEBEN REMAINS BLOCKED
Some members of her conservative party are demanding that
Gabriel, of the Social Democrats (SPD), lifts a moratorium on
research at Gorleben about the geological suitability of the
The moratorium is the result of battles between proponents
of nuclear power, who unsuccessfully tried to rush through
Gorleben's commissioning in the 1970s, and a powerful lobby of
opponents for whom the unresolved storage question buys time to
discredit nuclear, and finally abandon it.
Der Spiegel magazine quoted a strategy paper in its latest
issue in which conservative lawmaker Katherine Reiche demanded
that Gabriel immediately lift the moratorium on exploring the
possibilities at Gorleben.
A search for alternatives elsewhere, which Gabriel prefers,
would cost at least 1 billion euros, said the magazine.
Conservative Norbert Roettgen called on Gabriel to present
his suggestions for a final repository for nuclear waste.
"Gabriel must show he has done his homework and ... present
his ideas about a final storage place," he told German
television. If the idea of Gorleben was given up completely,
energy companies could make demands worth billions of euros.
High fuel prices and worries about energy security have
given impetus to conservatives' arguments in recent months that
nuclear must be kept as part of the German power mix but many
citizens remain worried about safety and the waste issue.
(Reporting by Madeline Chambers and Vera Eckert; Editing by