Bundestag Votes in Favour of Nuclear Power Extension and Energy Concept

After a controversial debate, the German Parliament (Bundestag) voted in favour of two amendments of the Atomic Energy Act (AtG). Bundestag also cleared two new laws concerning an energy and climate fund and a nuclear fuel rod tax. The government’s recently presented Energy Concept also got parliamentary approval.

The existing Atomic Energy Act, passed by a previous government, limited the maximum amount of electricity that could be produced by each nuclear power plant. The limitation was intended to shut down the last nuclear power plant by 2022.

With the new 11th amendment of the AtG, the German nuclear power plants are allocated additional generation quantities. These additional quantities shall lead to an extension of the operating times of the 17 German nuclear power plants for an average of 12 years. Nuclear power plants that started operating in or before 1980 will get generation quantities that shall last for an additional 8 years. Newer plants shall get quantities that shall allow an extension of 14 years.

The 12th amendment of AtG adds provisions necessary to transpose Directive 2009/71/Euratom into German law. Furthermore, the amendment introduces further safety requirements for nuclear power operators, obliging them to further develop and refine safety standards in accordance with the development of science and technology. The amendment also contains a provision allowing expropriations in favour of the exploration and operation of nuclear waste disposal sites.

The new nuclear fuel rod tax law shall enter into force on 1 January 2011. Until 31 December 2016, it levies taxes on nuclear fuel rods which are commercially used to generate electricity. The government expects to raise EUR 2.3 billion per year.

The law on the new Energie- und Klimafonds (Energy and Climate Fund – EKFG) creates a special purpose energy and climate fund. The money shal be used for the promotion of an environmentally-friendly, reliable and affordable energy supply, for instance with respect to energy-efficiency. Revenue will mainly come from a contractual agreement of the nuclear power plant operators with the German state that skims off part of their extra profits. Preliminary details on this can be found in the nuclear power term sheet agreed on by the government and the companies operating nuclear power plants. In addition, it will be funded by parts of the nuclear fuel rod tax and the auctioning of emission allowances as of 2013.

Bundestag also approved the Energy Concept of the government and asked the government to submit the necessary drafts for implementation in due course, as well as to grant energy research a high priority and to submit monitoring reports every three years.

As the debate about nuclear power in the recent past showed, an extension of nuclear power remains highly controversial. The opposition has already announced to bring the AtG amendments to the Federal Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht – BVerfG). The opposition claims that the Federal Council, the legislative body that represents the Länder (federal states) on the federal level, has to consent to the amendments.

The CDU/CSU and FDP coalition government does not hold a majority in the Federal Council any longer. Both sides commissioned opinions from legal experts. The last opinion in favour of consent by the Federal Council was being commissioned by Alliance ’90/The Greens. During the heated Bundestag debate, 2,000 protesters formed a human chain around the parliament building. Greenpeace activists climbed the roof of the headquarters of Chancellor Merkel’s ruling Christian Democratic Party and unfolded an anti-nuclear power banner, the magazine Spiegel reported.

Sources: Deutscher Bundestag, Spiegel Online

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