Germany’s Siemens renounces nuclear activity

Sep 18, 2011


BERLIN — German industrial giant Siemens is turning the page on nuclear energy in line with Berlin’s decision to agree to an end to atomic power, the group’s CEO Peter Loescher said Sunday.

"We will no longer be involved in overall managing of building or financing nuclear plants. This chapter is closed for us," he told the Der Spiegel weekly in an interview published on Sunday.

"We will from now on supply only conventional equipment such as steam turbines," he said. "This means we are restricting ourselves to technologies that are not only for nuclear purposes but can also be used in gas or coal plants."

There has been massive debate in Germany on the safety of nuclear energy after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami which knocked out cooling systems at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi plant, causing reactors to overheat and radiation to leak.

Germany switched off several of its reactors in the wake of the disaster and has since passed legislation to phase out nuclear energy by 2022.

In the interview, Loescher also definitively buried a long-planned joint venture project with Russian group Rosatom in the nuclear sector.

The partnership was announced in March 2009, shortly after Siemens ended a deal with France’s Areva.

"The two groups are still very interested in a partnership but it will be in another field," he said.

Loescher said his group’s decision to withdraw from the nuclear industry reflected "the very clear stance taken by Germany’s society and political leadership."

"That changed things for us at Siemens," he said.

Germany is the first major industrialised power to agree an end to atomic power since the disaster, the world’s worst since Chernobyl in 1986, with tens of thousands of people living near Fukushima evacuated.

Germany wants to boost the share of the country’s power needs generated by renewable energies to 35 percent by 2020 from 17 percent at present.

Siemens, which produces gas turbines and equipment used to produce solar and wind power, wants to develop a pioneering role in "green" energy.

Elsewhere is Europe, a recent vote against Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi’s plans to resume the country’s nuclear programme was seen as a reflection of popular unease about atomic energy after Fukushima.

The Swiss government in May, too, recommended that nuclear plants be phased out.

The new chief of the Paris-based International Energy Agency Maria van der Hoeven said earlier this month that nuclear power will have a place in the future however.

Van der Hoeven, formerly the Dutch minister for economic affairs, said: "There will be room for nuclear energy in the future.

"I think if we really want to go — and we do — towards a future where we have less CO2 emissions, there are only two real things to get there, and it has to do with nuclear, because it doesn’t produce CO2, and it has to do with renewables.

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