BERLIN (AP) — Germany's most powerful industrial sectors said Tuesday they are backing government plans to abolish nuclear power within about a decade, but warn that blackouts and other risks could arise from the decision.
"We believe that it is possible to replace nuclear power by 2022 or a date in that range," said Christopher Gruenewald, head of energy and climate policy for the Federation of German Industry group that represents the nation's manufacturers.
The federation is calling on the government to carry out annual progress reviews throughout the transition to renewable energy sources, to ensure an affordable and reliable power supply for Europe's biggest economy.
"German industries' biggest concern is the stability of the electricity grid system" as blackouts of a second could disrupt production lines and lead to hour-long shutdowns, Gruenewald said.
"This causes costly damages for the companies and weakens Germany as an industrial hub," he added.
Experts say that a significant drop in electricity input, or inconsistent input stemming from more volatile renewable sources such as solar and wind power, could change the grid's overall voltage and in the worst case lead to blackouts.
The other concern is that the new energy policy might drive up electricity prices.
"It is of paramount importance to carry out the transition to new energy sources in a way that the industry's international competitiveness and the jobs provided by it will be secured," Gruenewald said.
Japan's nuclear disaster at the Fukushima plant has tipped atomic power over the line from unpopular to politically toxic in Germany, with all parties now determined to move beyond the technology.
It prompted Chancellor Angela Merkel to freeze a recent decision to extend the life of the nation's 17 nuclear reactors, which a previous government had decided to shut by 2021.
Merkel's center-right coalition is due to decide in the coming weeks on how to proceed with nuclear energy and move to renewable sources faster than previously planned. The chancellor has indicated her government will seek to shut down the country's reactors within a little more than a decade.
Roughly 23 percent of Germany's electricity comes from nuclear generators, about the same share as in the U.S.
However, the output currently is much lower because only four of the 17 reactors are on the grid — seven have been shut down by the government in the wake of Fukushima and the remainder are undergoing maintenance. So far, no significant blackouts have been reported.