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Thunberg: Burning coal is worse than German nuclear plants

The 19-year-old's comments come as Germany's three-party governing coalition is arguing over the possibility of suspending the country's nuclear phaseout.

BERLIN (AP) — Climate activist Greta Thunberg says it would be "a mistake" for Germany to switch off its nuclear power plants if that means the country must burn more planet-heating coal.

The German government is now debating whether to phase out nuclear power as planned this year, despite the specter of a looming energy crisis due to the war in Ukraine.

Thunberg, who inspired a youth climate movement with her solo protests outside the Swedish parliament in 2018, told German public broadcaster ARD that it was “a very bad idea to focus on coal when this (nuclear power) is already in place.”

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But she acknowledged in the interview, which will be aired Wednesday, that there was a strong debate over the issue in Germany.

Asked whether it would be better for the planet for Germany to keep its three remaining nuclear plants going, Thunberg responded: “It depends. If we have them already running, I feel that it’s a mistake to close them down in order to focus on coal.”

The 19-year-old's comments come as Germany's three-party governing coalition is arguing over the possibility of suspending the country's nuclear phaseout.

Economy Minister Robert Habeck, a member of the anti-nuclear Green party, has suggested that two of the plants could exceptionally operate until April but opposes running them longer for safety reasons. Habeck has separately approved reactivating several coal and oil-fired power plants to ensure energy supplies following Russia's decision to cut natural gas deliveries to Europe.

Environmental activists warn that Germany risks defaulting on its climate goals by burning more fossil fuels, while conservative lawmakers say the government should use all available means to generate energy given the tense energy situation, with supplies narrowing and prices soaring.

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