Court rules Biblis closure unlawful

28 February 2013

A three-month closure imposed by the government on RWE's Biblis A and B reactors as an immediate response to the Fukushima accident was illegal, a German court has ruled.

Biblis (Areva)
Biblis (Image: Areva)

The administrative court for the German state of Hesse has found the state ministry of the environment acted illegally on 18 March 2011 when it issued an order for the immediate closure of the Biblis units. The state ministry was acting to enforce a decree issued by Chancellor Angela Merkel in immediate response to the nuclear accident at Fukushima Daiichi, ordering that all German nuclear power reactors that began operation in or before 1980 should be immediately shut down as part of a three-month nuclear moratorium.

RWE complied with the decree by shutting Biblis-A immediately. Biblis-B was already undergoing a scheduled outage. Nevertheless, the company asserted that as the plants were in compliance with the relevant safety requirements the German government had no legal grounds for shutting them. Accordingly, RWE filed an appeal against the closure with the administrative court of appeal for the state of Hesse.

The court has now ruled that the closure notice was illegal because RWE had not been given sufficient opportunity to respond to the order. The administrative court ruling solely concerns the legality of the closure order. Any claims for damages against the state of Hesse would be decided in subsequent civil court proceedings.

The German government subsequently made the closure of the eight reactors permanent, and revived plans to phase out nuclear power by 2022. This decision, as well as a tax on nuclear fuel levied in anticipation of continued operation of nuclear plants before the phaseout decision, have cost German nuclear operators dear: RWE estimated that the phase-out cost the company over €1 billion ($1.3 billion) in 2011 alone. Lawsuits have been filed by all the nuclear generators affected by the closure order to seek redress for their losses after the effective confiscation of their rights to generate, while other lawsuits against the nuclear fuel tax are ongoing. German tax courts have already that the nuclear fuel tax is formally unconstitutional, sending the matter forward to the German Constitutional Court.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News