Prompting the longtime proponent to halt production in certain plants is, of course, the nuclear disaster looming in Japan. There, plant explosions have led to a "much higher than normal level" of radiation in Japan since the 9.0 earthquake last Friday. (credit for map showing Japan's nuclear power plants)
In the United States, the Obama administration reportedly seeks "to reassure Americans that nuclear power is safe."
That effort contrasts with Merkel's announcement of plans for inspection of Germany's 17 reactors, some with designs much like that in Japan. (In similar vein, French President Nicolas Sarkozy expressed "disquiet" over the still-unfolding tragedy.)
Merkel described the catastrophe in Japan as a moment for reflection by "the entire world."
Let's hope that reflection entails robust application of the precautionary principle.