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German govt infighting grows over nuclear power plant extension

FILE PHOTO: Nuclear power plant Isar 2 in Eschenbach near Landshut

BERLIN (Reuters) -Infighting in Germany's ruling coalition grew on Wednesday over the country's nuclear power plants, as environmentalist Greens and pro-business Free Democrats bickered over a possible extension of their lifespan to try to tackle the energy crisis.

Economy Minister Robert Habeck, of the Greens, said on Tuesday that he expects to have to extend the lifespans of the country's last two nuclear power plants to avoid possible outages and grid bottlenecks this winter.

Germany had planned to complete a phase-out of nuclear power by the end of this year but a collapse in energy supplies from Russia due to the war in Ukraine has prompted the government to keep two plants on standby until April. A third nuclear plant that remains online is still set to be shut down by Dec. 31.

Environment Minister Steffi Lemke, also a member of the Greens, on Wednesday ruled out extending the lifespans of two nuclear plants beyond the coming winter and purchasing the new fuel elements which would be needed.

However, the executive committee of the Free Democrats (FDP), who are in coalition with the Greens and the Social Democrats (SPD), on Wednesday voiced their support for taking the opposite path, by extending the lifespans of all three plants as well as bringing three plants that were recently shut down back online.

Anything else would be irresponsible, said Stefan Birkner, FDP chairman for the state of Lower Saxony.

(Reporting by Alexander Ratz, Writing by Madeline Chambers and Miranda Murray, editing by Rachel More, William Maclean)