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Merkel attacks Vattenfall over reactor

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08:26 CEST+02:00
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has hit out at Swedish state-owned nuclear operator Vattenfall on Sunday over a series of problems at an ageing reactor near Hamburg.

"I am very, very unhappy with what Vattenfall has done and the way that they have acted," Merkel said in an interview on public television. "It is possible to get angry thinking about what has happened and how it has been managed."

The Krümmel reactor near Hamburg, one of Germany's oldest, underwent earlier this month what Vattenfall called an "emergency shutdown" after a short circuit in one of its transformers.

It was the second such incident in several days at the plant, which had only just re-opened after two years of repairs following a malfunction in a transformer that had caused a fire and a shutdown.

Embarrassingly, Vattenfall has since admitted that it failed to install a vital safety sensor, and it then said most of Kruemmel's 80,000 fuel rods had to be checked. One has since found to be damaged.

Germany decided in 2000 under Social Democrat (SPD) ex-chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's coalition with the Greens to make the country nuclear-free by about 2020, when Merkel's CDU/CSU conservatives were in opposition.

But Merkel's conservatives, now coalition partners to the SPD, want to extend the life of some of the nuclear plants, if - as polls suggest they will - they can form a majority with the liberal Free Democrats (FDP) in September.

As a result, the SPD has attempted to jump on the problems at Kruemmel in an effort to improve their dismal poll ratings, with the SPD's chancellor candidate Frank-Walter Steinmeier calling for Krümmel to be shut for good.

Merkel defended her stance on Sunday, calling nuclear "a bridging technology" while other ways to generate power are produced and saying that Germany's reactors "have satisfactory safety levels."

She added, however, that an "end solution" had to be found for safely storing radioactive waster, hitting out at her SPD Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel for obstructing progress on the issue.

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