German parliament approves nuclear shutdown

An anti-nuclear protester holds a flag reading ' Nuclear power - no thanks' as she demonstrates in front of the German parliament the Reichstag building in Berlin, Germany, Thursday, June 30, 2011. In a final debate German lawmakers are preparing to vote on the government's plan to shut down the country's nuclear power plants by 2022. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

BERLIN (AP) — German lawmakers have overwhelmingly approved the government's plan for the country to shut down all its nuclear power plants by the end of 2022.

Parliament's lower house voted 513-79, with eight abstentions, for the shutdown plan in Europe's biggest economy. Most of the opposition voted in favor.

Thursday's decision sets Germany on the road to an ambitious build-up of renewable energy.

Environment Minister Norbert Roettgen tells lawmakers: "This will be good for our country, because we all stand together. So let's get to work."

Chancellor Angela Merkel's government performed an about-face after Japan's Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant was ravaged by an earthquake and tsunami in March.

Only last year, it had decided to extend the life span of Germany's 17 nuclear reactors.