Ger­man court to rule on nu­clear com­pen­sa­tion

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -

A Ger­man court is set to rule on whether three big en­ergy sup­pli­ers are en­ti­tled to bil­lions of eu­ros in com­pen­sa­tion over the coun­try’s de­ci­sion to phase out nu­clear power in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima disas­ter. Ger­man elec­tric­ity gi­ants EON and RWE and Swe­den’s Vat­ten­fall have ar­gued that the gov­ern­ment-or­dered shut­down of the coun­try’s nu­clear plants amounts to an “ex­pro­pri­a­tion” of their as­sets.

They have asked the Con­sti­tu­tional Court in the south­west­ern city of Karlsruhe to award them some 20 bil­lion eu­ros ($21 bil­lion) in dam­ages, ac­cord­ing to me­dia re­ports. Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel’s gov­ern­ment de­cided af­ter Ja­pan’s 2011 Fukushima re­ac­tor melt­downs to halt op­er­a­tions of Ger­many’s eight old­est nu­clear plants and to shut­ter the other nine by 2022.

The move marked a sharp re­ver­sal for Merkel. She had ear­lier over­turned a phase-out or­dered by a pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ment in 2002 and ex­tended the life­span of Ger­many’s nu­clear fleet un­til 2036. The chief of Ger­many’s big­gest power com­pany EON, Jo­hannes Teyssen, told the court in March that while the com­pa­nies re­spected the po­lit­i­cal choice to give up on nu­clear en­ergy, they should not have to foot the bill alone.

“We can­not sim­ply ac­cept that par­lia­ment dis­re­garded con­sti­tu­tional re­quire­ments by pro­vid­ing for no com­pen­sa­tion,” he said at the time. “For our share­hold­ers-in­clud­ing many small stock hold­ers who have their sav­ings and pen­sions in­vested with us-this cre­ates a sig­nif­i­cant fi­nan­cial loss which un­der cur­rent law will not be com­pen­sated for.”

The firms have com­plained that the losses come at a time when they are al­ready strug­gling in the face of low whole­sale elec­tric­ity prices and com­pe­ti­tion from heav­ily sub­si­dized re­new­able as part of Ger­many’s shift to clean en­ergy such as wind, so­lar and biomass. Crit­ics how­ever have coun­tered that the big en­ergy com­pa­nies ben­e­fited from mas­sive state sub­si­dies when the nu­clear plants first went into oper­a­tion. At the same court hear­ing in March, En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter Bar­bara Hen­dricks de­fended the gov­ern­ment’s po­si­tion, say­ing that the Fukushima catas­tro­phe had “ne­ces­si­tated a re­assess­ment of the risks as­so­ci­ated with nu­clear en­ergy”. Ob­servers said the out­come of the case was dif­fi­cult to pre­dict, com­pli­cated by the fact that judges would also have to rule on whether Vat­ten­fall’s com­plaint was even ad­mis­si­ble in a Ger­man court given that it is a Swedish com­pany.

The ver­dict could have an im­pact on sep­a­rate ne­go­ti­a­tions between the gov­ern­ment and nu­clear plant op­er­a­tors on man­ag­ing the coun­try’s atomic waste dis­posal. Un­der a draft law ap­proved in Oc­to­ber, the firms Vat­ten­fall, EON, RWE and EnBW would have to con­trib­ute 23.5 bil­lion eu­ros to a state fund for the stor­age of nu­clear waste by 2022. — AFP

KARLSRUHE: The first se­nate of Ger­many’s Con­sti­tu­tional Court with its mem­bers (L-R) Yvonne Ott, Su­sanne Baer, Jo­hannes Mas­ing, Michael Eich­berger, Fer­di­nand Kirch­hof (chair­man), Wil­helm Sch­lucke­bier, An­dreas Paulus and Gabriele Britz give their judg­ment on com­pen­sa­tions over nu­clear phase-out. — AFP

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