The German government announced it will shut down all of its nuclear power plants by 2022, calling the move "definite".
The decision, which would make Germany the first major industrial power to give up on atomic energy, came after painful discussions between the two governing parties, the centre-right CDU of Chancellor Angela Merkel and the liberal FDP.
"It's definite. The latest end for the last three nuclear power plants is 2022. There will be no clause for revision," said environment minister Norbert Roettgen in the early hours of Monday morning, reports the BBC.
Under the planned phase-out, the seven old nuclear plants taken off-grid following the nuclear crisis in Japan's Fukushshima plant in March will remain out of action. Another nuclear plant, Kruemmel, out of action for years due to technical problems, will also not be put back online.
Six additional nuclear reactors will be mothballed by the end of 2021, while the country's three newest plants will follow in 2022.
The decision represents a spectacular u-turn for Chancellor Merkel. At the end of 2010, she had promised, in the face of popular outcry, to extend the life of Germany's 17 reactors until the mid-2030s.
However, the grave problems at the Fukushima plant following the earthquake and tsunami in Japan saw German voters clamouring for reassurance about Germany's plants.
Merkel agreed to a review of nuclear policy but her back-and-forth stance on the issue is widely seen to have cost her at the ballot box in state elections.
The most recent setback occurred last week in Bremen where the anti-nuclear Greens came second, pushing Merkel's CDU into third place.
The nuclear phase-out will mean that Germany has to find other sources for the 23 percent of its energy provided by nuclear plants.
However, environment minister Roettgen sees great economic opportunities in taking the non-nuclear path.
"If we can manage this process intelligently, we will be able to increase Germany's competitiveness enormously and reap enormous pay-offs for the economy," he told the Financial Times recently.
"Everything we have to invent will provide an opportunity for our engineers to live out their ingenuity – efficiency technologies, or renewable energy technology itself."
The EU Observer