By Markus Wacket
BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany's environment ministry believes nuclear power can be phased out by 2017 without causing small blackouts or large price increases, according to a position paper obtained by Reuters.
In March, Chancellor Angela Merkel reversed a 2010 decision to extend the lifespan of the country's nuclear power plants -- run by RWE, E.ON, Vattenfall and EnBW -- in response to the nuclear disaster in Japan.
"Energy supply is and remains safe," the paper said.
"The level of electricity prices will only increase slightly," it said. "The stability of the grid will remain secure with a phasing-out of nuclear power in 2017-2020."
Merkel's u-turn on nuclear policy follows a series of regional election upsets which have largely favored the anti-atomic energy Greens and she is now backing proposals to shut all 17 German plants down within about a decade.
Merkel's own Christian Democrats (CDU) are scheduled to hold talks on the nuclear exit policy on Sunday and discuss it with their conservative sister party, the Bavarian CSU, on Monday.
The environment ministry declined to comment on the paper.