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Once considered the future of power generation in a world thirsty for energy, Germany’s ruling coalition agreed earlier this week to close the last of its nuclear power stations by 2022, government officials said.

Most of the plants should be offline in ten years, by 2021, the sources said, but three plants will serve as a backup in case of energy shortages and would close a year later.

Business supporters of the center-right government of Chancellor Angela Merkel had urged caution, warning power shortages could cripple industry.

The agreement came about after 12 hours of negotiations between the three government parties. Also involved in the talks were the chiefs of the two main opposition parties. Merkel has said she wants to set a policy to end a dispute that has split Germans since the 1970s.

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The government is considering keeping 2,000 megawatts of capacity, equivalent to two power stations, on standby after the shutdown in case of emergency, an idea that experts consider difficult to put into practice.

Legislation passed last year committed Germany to close all nuclear plants by the mid-2030s. Polls are now showing a bigger majority of Germans want a shutdown far sooner, after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan damaged the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant, causing radiation leaks.

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