Global Impact: Nuclear Crisis in Japan Triggers Protest in Germany

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Anti-Nuclear Power Protestors

Getty images/Sean Gallup

Tens of thousands of anti-nuclear protesters formed a chain in Stuttgart, Germany on Saturday, which marked the biggest anti-nuclear demonstration since the Chernobyl disaster 25 years ago.

Protesters waved yellow flags that echoed calls to “shut the government now.” Others carried banners that read “Nuclear power- no thanks.”

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Organizers were overwhelmed when over 50,000 protesters turned up. Outraged with Angela Merkel’s plan to expand the life of the country’s 17 nuclear power stations to 12 years, the activists formed a human chain from Stuttgart to Neckarwestheim nuclear plant, measuring 45 km (25 miles).

Germans are infuriated by the disaster in Japan, a clear sign that nuclear power has its risks. And although some scientists are downplaying the dangers of nuclear power, Germans still remain gravely concerned over the consequences. Following a pledge made by Merkel’s predecessor Gerhard Schroeder, they’re demanding that all nuclear power plants be closed by 2021.

Japan brings back memories of Europe’s Chernobyl disaster. “My daughter was born that autumn [in 1986], and she suffered serious disabilities as a result,” said Karin Sager, a German affected by the Chernobyl disaster, in an interview with the BBC. “The message to Merkel has got to be: stop this now. If there’s any kind of radioactive leak she’ll be out straight away.” Nuclear power is a key issue for Germany’s upcoming regional elections, so it’s a small wonder why Merkel’s popularity is falling.

Governments around Europe could see themselves in a similar sticky situation. Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi aims for a quarter of the country’s electricity to be generated from nuclear power, a possible concern given that Italy is at risk of a possible earthquake. In Britain, the disaster in Japan could affect the coalition’s plans to replace the UK’s old reactors with ten new power stations. The never-ending human chain didn’t just illustrate that Germany is united, but also that they, like many other European nations, are determined to fight for a non-nuclear future.

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