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Germany to abandon N-power

Germany is determined to show the world how abandoning nuclear energy can be done.

The world's fourth-largest economy stands alone among leading industrialized nations in its decision to stop using nuclear energy because of its inherent risks. It is betting billions on expanding the use of renewable energy to meet power demands instead.

The transition was supposed to happen slowly over the next 25 years, but is now being accelerated in the wake of Japan's Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant disaster.

Berlin's decision to take seven of its 17 reactors offline for three months for new safety checks has provided a glimpse into how Germany might wean itself from getting nearly a quarter of its power from atomic energy to none.

In the United States, New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said the state could replace the electricity generated by the Indian Point nuclear power plant within a few years if its two reactors are shut down. Cuomo and others have asked the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to study Indian Point's vulnerability to an earthquake. The Westchester County plant, which generates 2,000 megawatts, is near a fault line.

But Matthew Cordaro, the former chief executive officer of the Midwest Independent System Operator and an advisory board member of the New York Affordable Reliable Electricity Alliance, said shutting the plant would have a ripple effect on the state's economy and would threaten the supply of adequate clean-burning electricity.

Nuclear power has been very unpopular in Germany ever since radioactivity from the 1986 Chernobyl disaster drifted across the country. A center-left government a decade ago penned a plan to abandon the technology for good by 2021, but Chancellor Angela Merkel's government last year amended it to extend the plants' lifetime by an average of 12 years. That plan was put on hold after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami compromised nuclear power plants in Japan.

Germany gets 23 percent of its energy from nuclear power -- about as much as the U.S. Its ambitious plan to shut down its reactors will require at least a $210 billion investment in alternative energy sources, which experts say will likely lead to higher electricity prices.

Germany gets 17 percent of its electricity from renewable energies, 13 percent from natural gas and more than 40 percent from coal. The Environment Ministry says in 10 years renewable energy will contribute 40 percent of the country's overall electricity production.

The Albany Times Union contributed to this report.

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