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The Associated Press September 10, 2010, 9:18AM ET

Poll: Germans oppose nuclear power extension

A majority of Germans oppose government plans to put off a shutdown of the country's nuclear power plants by an average 12 years, according to a poll released Friday.

The poll for ZDF television found that 61 percent opposed the plan announced earlier this week to undo a previous government's decade-old decision to shut down all German nuclear plants by 2021.

The poll of 1,221 people -- conducted Tuesday through Thursday -- found that 33 percent supported the change.

Chancellor Angela Merkel's government has portrayed the change as a way to keep energy cheap until more renewable energy is available. Merkel has described nuclear power as a "bridging technology" and there is no talk of Germany building any new nuclear plants.

Nuclear energy has been unpopular in Germany since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

The poll found that 65 percent of respondents agree with the charge leveled by many in the German opposition that Merkel's center-right coalition mainly took account of nuclear plant operators' interests in drawing up its energy concept. Twenty-two percent disagreed.

The four companies that operate Germany's 17 nuclear plants -- E.ON AG, RWE AG, EnBW AG and the German subsidiary of Sweden's Vattenfall -- had pushed hard to keep them running.

In return for the expected additional profits, they will have to pay an annual nuclear fuel tax expected to bring in euro2.3 billion ($2.9 billion) annually starting next year, and will have to contribute to a fund to boost renewable energy.

Friday's survey, conducted by the Forschungsgruppe Wahlen polling agency, gave a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

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