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German Chancellor Angela Merkel wants to quickly phase out nuclear energy, but the chancellor faces a power struggle with the energy industry. Merkel wants to avoid at all costs the impression that she is cutting deals with the major German utilities, RWE, E.on, Vattenfall and EnBW.

The nuclear phase-out carries enormous legal risks for the German government. If the industry sues the government for compensation, the potential damages could quickly shoot into the double-digit billions.

Speculation has it that none of the eight older plants that were shut down as part of Merkel's post-Fukushima nuclear "moratorium" will ever return to operation. Germany's other nine nuclear reactors will also be shut down for good around 2020.

The government is placing its hopes in two arguments. First, the utilities have no alternative, given that the former SPD/Green Party coalition also demanded a rapid phase-out. Second, the coalition will sweeten the deal for the energy industry with the prospect of a profitable switch to gas and renewable energy. (Spiegle Online, 5/10/2011)