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Nuclear heats up German election campaign

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A technical fault at a German nuclear power station has thrown a spotlight on one of the few issues that divide the two main parties before September’s election — atomic energy.

But the anti-nuclear Social Democrats (SPD), who have shared power with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives since 2005, may be disappointed if they had hoped to win votes from it.

Merkel, forced to accept a phaseout of Germany’s atomic plants under its coalition deal with the SPD, is campaigning on extending the lifespan of nuclear plants which are deemed safe.

By contrast, the SPD is committed to the phaseout which it introduced in a previous alliance with the Greens, and Saturday’s failed restart at the ageing Kruemmel plant in northern Germany has galvanised some of its members into action.

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