Uncertainty over the future of West Germany's nuclear power projects and bitterness over U.S. pressure to curtail nuclear technology exports are both on the rise in this country.
Both issues are daily becoming more sensitive in this highly industrialized nation that already has (11) nuclear power plants operating and is highly dependent upon exports to keep its economy up and its unemployment down.
Late Wednesday, a court decision in Schleswig-Holstein, one of West Germany's 10 states, set what could become a precedent for dramatically slowing down the rate of expansion in domestic use of nuclear power here.
The court ruled that construction work could not continue on a controversial new power plant a Brokdorf until it was clearly decided what would be done with the radioactive wastes.
The ruling, which will be appealed, follows the decree last month by the country's most populous state, North Rhine-Westphalia, not to start any more plants until the waste question is decided.
The only geologically suitable place for storage of nuclear wastes, particularly those of high radioactivity, is supposed to be in the state of Lower Saxony. The federal government has leaned hard on the state leadership to allow a major new reprocessing and waste storage area to be built there.
The issue is political synamite in that state, where environmental and other, more militant groups have banned together under a slogan of "Better Active Today Than Radioactive Tomorrow."
The state's governor is also one of the rising political stars of the conservative opposition, and today, at his request, the governors of all states agreed to investigate all possibilities, including in the United States - before making any recommendation on a new storage facility.
Aside from the plants already operating and producing some 6.5 megawatts of power, there are other plants with double that output under construction. Failure to resolve the disposal issue would be a major problem.
At the moment, some plants have limited storage facilities of their own, some less active waste is stored in salt domes in Lower Saxony, and other waste fuel is reprocessed at smaller plants here and in France.
Public opinion polls show that most West Germans still believe nuclear energy will be necessary in the future. Chancellor Helmut Schmidt - despite some reduced overall economic growth and energy consumption - remains strongly committed to that point of view. He prefers, however, that West Germany find its own solution to the waste problem and not be dependent on other countries.
Schmidt's aides say they also believe allegations that some of the more militant demostrators are being financed by money from East Germany, funneled through the West Germany Communist Party.
In recent days, there has also been a noticeable increase in the annoyance with U.S. efforts to get Bonn to withhold nuclear fuel reprocessing and enrichment technology from Brazil, West Germany has a mammoth $5 billion contract to supply an entire nuclear power network to Brazil.
The resentment became bipartisan yesterday when the leadership of the conservative opposition parties offered massive support to Schmidt not to back away from the Brazilian deal.
This came as two Bonn officials opened talks in Washington to try to find a way to resolve the dispute with the Carter administration.
Despite Carter's emphasis on the moral arguments against spreading potentially weapons-making technology, some West Germans remain suspicious that U.S. motive is economic.
The respected weekly newspaper Die Zeit editorialized that the question of whether Carter will "force Bonn to its knees" could turn out to be "the severest conflict of this decade and nobody knows how it will be settled."
Yesterday, the 17-member West German Nuclear Manufacturers Association also issued a strong statement attacking the U.S. position. It argues that the safeguards on the Brazilian deal offer far better controls than giving countries no other alternative than to build reprocessing plants on their own without any safeguards.
The statement pointed out that 14 countries already had such technology, which showed that the technology, which showed that the technological threshhold for achieving it was not very high.
Die Zeit said that it was the Americans themselves who have given use in Europe and in the Third World to a philosophy of independence from the United States in the field of nuclear energy. They failed to provide in time for adequate capacity to furnish other countries enriched nuclear fuel."