Fireworks for German Atomic Forum

01 July 2009

Industry group the German Atomic Forum (Deutsches Atomforum, DAtF) has celebrated is 50th year with the help of a special guest - Chancellor Angela Merkel - as a debate on the future of nuclear energy hots up.


The German leader was among 200 invited guests from industry, science and the media that heard DAtF president Walter Hohlefelder say, "The peaceful use of nuclear energy has led to the development of wealth and welfare of our country." He added that ending its use "would not be without negative consequences" for German business and industry. The event drew a scathing rebuke from environment minister Sigmar Gabriel.


The level of debate:
Sigmar Gabriel's statement in full


Fifty years of Atomic Forum - a half-century of lies and deceit


Fifty years of the Deutsche Atomic Forum - that means half a century of lies and deceit. The propaganda centre of the atomic industry is like no other institution by virtue of its deliberate concealment, repression and trivialisation of the dangers associated with the commercial exploitation of nuclear energy. More than ten years ago we initiated a paradigm shift in energy policy, with the phase-out of risky nuclear power, the dawn of a sustainable energy supply without oil and nuclear - this passed by the propagandists of the Atomic Forum almost without trace.
The comforting news is: it has, despite everything, helped nothing. The Atomic Forum embodies the history of a major failure: in the 50 years of its existence it has spared no senseless propaganda stunt, and certainly no expense to make German nuclear power more palatable - and yet has failed. Nuclear power, all reputable polls show, is unpopular with the majority of the population - today as 30 years ago.

Organisms which have survived from many ages ago are known as 'living fossils' in biology. The German Atomic Forum is a living fossil from the atomic age. The dinosaur of nuclear technology is not in renaissance, as some would have us believe, but before its end. And with the anticipated shutdown of the last nuclear power plant in Germany, the German Atomic Forum with land where it belongs: on the dunghill of history.


Germany has a policy to limit the operating lives of existing reactors and subsidise renewables with feed-in tariffs. However, the country will increasingly struggle to meet its carbon reduction targets with the planned reductions in nuclear energy which currently supplies 25% of electricity.


The debate on nuclear energy's future has suddenly begun in earnest after economy minister Karl-Theodor von und zu Guttenberg's comments to Suddeutsche Zeitung newspaper that he believed longer lives for nuclear plants would be necessary until renewables were more practical.


Last week Greenpeace protestors scaled the containment of the Unterweser nuclear power plant to unveil a combined skull and radiation symbol along with the message that 'Nuclear power harms Germany'. The stunt inspired two children in the western town of Oelde to build their own nuclear power plant out of an old computer. Complete with a large radiation symbol, the contraption caused street closures as firefighters investigated.


Today, a surprising verbal battle erupted with environment minister Sigmar Gabriel's comments on DAtF's celebration, which left no-one in any doubt as to his personal opinion. Calling the organisation 'the propaganda centre of the atomic industry' he said that its 50 years really means 'half a century of lies and deceit' and that he looks forward to the 'living fossil' taking its place 'on the dunghill of history'. Hohlefelder issued a quick response that Gabriel's 'shrill and hysterical reaction speaks for itself.'


Merkel's Christian Democratic Union and its sister party the Christian Social Union would like to end the phase-out after the 27 September federal election, as would possible coalition partners the Free Democratic Party. However, the Greens and the Social Democrats (currently part of the current ruling coalition) want to continue the phase out, which would see seven of the 17 German nuclear power reactors closed in the next legislative period.