Old Evidence Roils New German Nuclear Debate

A 20-year-old telegram has heated up Germany's debate over nuclear power in the run-up to parliamentary elections later this month. The telegram seems to substantiate charges that politicians in the government of former Chancellor Helmut Kohl pressured scientists to recommend an old salt mine as a potential site for long-term nuclear waste storage. The debate is part of a larger controversy over whether or not the country should phase out its nuclear power by 2022, as current law stipulates. The country’s two center-right parties, which have a slight lead in the latest polls, have said they want to let the country’s nuclear power plants run up to a decade longer. The country’s three, main, left-leaning parties support the phaseout. As many as 50,000 people attended a march against nuclear power in Berlin last weekend.

The long-running controversy over the site will seem familiar to observers of the debate over the proposed nuclear waste repository in Yucca Mountain, which has been defunded by the Obama Administration. Germany, like the United States, has no long-term disposal site for high-level radioactive waste.