World rethinks future plans for affordable power source
German Chancellor Angela Merkel last night pledged a faster shift away from nuclear power, while Italy's plans to reintroduce atomic energy were put on ice.
Several other European nations, from Finland to Switzerland, have turned more sceptical about nuclear energy.
In Berlin, Ms Merkel yesterday dismissed allegations that she may have closed seven atomic plants illegally and told parliament that nuclear technology remained a transitional source of affordable power while renewable energy sources were developed further.
Earlier this week, she backtracked on an unpopular decision to extend the life of ageing nuclear power stations, drawing scorn from the opposition.
Under a "moratorium", the government ordered the closure for safety checks of all seven of Germany's nuclear plants which began operating before 1980.
"We will use the moratorium period, which we deliberately set to be short and ambitious, to drive the change in energy policy and accelerate it wherever possible, as we want to reach the age of renewable energy as quickly as possible," she said.
Ms Merkel backtracked on her government's decision taken only last autumn to prolong the life of Germany's total of 17 nuclear power plants.
In Italy, the government called for time to reflect, apparently softening plans ahead of a planned June referendum on reintroducing nuclear power.
"From the information we have, the problem in Japan will not be easy to resolve," Industry Minister Paolo Romani told reporters. "We should take a pause to reflect."
"I think there is now less than 0.01pc chance for nuclear in Italy," said Luigi De Paoli, energy economy professor at the Bocconi University in Milan.
In Jerusalem, Israeli officials said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was reconsidering plans to build a nuclear power plant in Israel in the wake of the crisis in Japan.
In Poland, unease was growing among Poles living near the probable site of their country's first atomic power plant. And, in Turkey, Greenpeace said the country should abandon plans to launch nuclear power plants because it was close to geological fault lines.