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German coalition resumes atomic dispute amid Russia oil impasse

Germany has resumed squabbling over nuclear energy with Merkel's Christian Democrats urging a rethink of plans to phase it out after Russia shut its main crude oil pipeline to Western Europe.

Germany's ruling coalition has resumed squabbling over nuclear energy with Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats urging a rethink of plans to phase it out after Russia shut its main crude oil pipeline to Western Europe. Russian pipeline operator OAO Transneft on January 8 shut down its Druzhba (Friendship), pipeline which moves 27 million tons a year to Germany.

The closure shows it's „urgently necessary” to consider revising nuclear policy, Economy Minister Michael Glos, a member of the Christian Social Union, sister party of Merkel's Christian Democrats, told ARD television late yesterday. „We don't want to be narrowly dependent” on Russia from where Germany also gets more than 40% of its natural gas, Glos said. „Nuclear power is also part of the energy mix.” Germany's previous, Social Democrat-led government committed to shutting down nuclear plants by the early 2020s, meaning some 40,000 megawatts in generation capacity need to be replaced.

Germany should promote renewable sources of energy rather than raising reliance on nuclear power, Social Democrat Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel told ARD television today. „There's no relation between oil imports and electricity generation in Germany,” Gabriel said. Russian President Vladimir Putin said yesterday the world's second-biggest oil exporter may lower crude output after the January 8 closure of Druzhba to punish neighboring Belarus. Russia last month imposed duties on crude exports to its former Soviet partner – a step that caused Belarus to levy a transit tax on Transneft.

Merkel yesterday urged Putin to end the row, saying Russia's failure to consult with the European Union ahead of time was „not acceptable” and „destroying confidence” in Russia's reputation as a reliable energy supplier. Merkel has pledged to pursue common EU policies on energy in her six-month presidency of the block. Russia last month threatened to turn off gas deliveries to Belarus in a dispute reminiscent of a confrontation with Ukraine.

Last year, a disagreement between OAO Gazprom and Ukraine reduced deliveries to Europe from the Russian natural-gas producer. Germany's nuclear capacity accounts for about a third of the country's power generation. Merkel said the interruption of Russian deliveries underscores the need for Germany to broaden its supply base. „For that reason, one must of course think about what sort of consequences arise if we shut down nuclear plants,” she told ARD television yesterday. (Bloomberg)