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Germany Stands Firm in Nuclear Spat
Thursday January 21 3:08 PM ET
BONN, Germany (AP) - In a growing spat between European allies,
Germany stood firm Thursday in its refusal to pay compensation if
it scraps deals with Britain and France to reprocess its nuclear
The new German government's drive to phase out nuclear power
has turned into a wider political wrangle, with French Prime
Minister Lionel Jospin urging Germany on Thursday to pay for the
The French and British reprocessing plants involved have
threatened to sue for damages if Germany fails to honor long-term
contracts to process the waste into usable fuel.
But German Environment Minister Juergen Trittin, fresh from talks
on the issue with British Trade and Industry Secretary Stephen
Byers, refused to budge.
``There is no basis for compensation in case of a legal ban'' on
reprocessing, Trittin declared.
``But of course we stand behind our commitment under
international law to accept the return of our atomic waste'' from
Britain and France once reprocessing is ended, he said.
Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and his junior coalition partner, the
Greens, have agreed to pass a law that would bar German power
plants from sending spent nuclear fuel abroad for reprocessing
starting next Jan. 1. The move is part of the center-left
government's plan to phase out nuclear power.
Britain's Byers said Wednesday that his country will return 650
tons of spent fuel if Bonn passes the law and scraps its contracts.
A day later, Jospin urged Germany to negotiate compensation with
``There is no reason to start an argument, but there is every reason
for France to defend legitimate interests with respect to
international and commercial laws,'' he said in Paris.
France's state-owned processing company, COGEMA, says
Germany's withdrawal from contracts running until 2010 would cost
the company more than $5.3 billion.
French Industry Secretary Christian Pierret said Germany had
proposed that it promise to pay COGEMA to process the spent
German fuel that the company already has.
But Pierret rejected the proposal as ``a little far-fetched.''
``Compensation should be the logical conclusion of Germany's
decision'' to stop sending spent nuclear fuel out of the country for
reprocessing, he said.
German opposition parties accused Trittin of inept diplomacy with
two key allies and urged him to change his mind during a
parliamentary debate in Bonn on Thursday.
Guenter Rexrodt of the pro-business Free Democrats accused him
of causing ``immense harm in foreign policy.'' Andreas
Schockenhoff, a Christian Democrat, said the government was
sowing ``fear of an unpredictable Germany that breaks its
French lawmakers debated their country's energy policy Thursday.
But with the exception of the Greens, most continued to back
nuclear energy, which provides 80 percent of France's
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