Constitutional Complaint Against Nuclear Power Extension

A constitutional complaint (Verfassungsbeschwerde) against the extension of the operating times of German nuclear power plants has been submitted to the Federal Constitutional Court (Bundesverfasssungsgericht – BVerfG). The complaint is supported by Greenpeace.

The controversial amendments of the Atomic Energy Act (AtG)  entitle the four major German utilities and nuclear power plant operators to extend the operating times of the 17 German nuclear power plants.

The recently approved AtG amendments form part of the government’s Energy Concept, in which nuclear power is considered a bridging technology on the road to more renewable energy supply. The nuclear extension has been heavily opposed by various parties, including in parliament by the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and Alliance 90’/The Greens. The latter formed a coalition government from 1998 to 2005. During that period, the 2002 “exit amendment” (Ausstiegsnovelle) of the AtG provided for a earlier phase-out of nuclear power. This phase out was decided without consent from the Federal Council (Bundesrat), the legislative body that represents the federal states on the federal level. Depending on the individual generating capacities allocated to each plant, the phase-out for all plants would roughly have been accomplished until 2020. The 11th amendment of the AtG allocates additional generation quantities, leading to an average extension of the plants’ operating time of 12 years.

The complainants (Beschwerdeführer) of the constitutional complaint claim that sections of the 11th amendment as well as sections of the 12th amendment of the AtG violate their fundamental rights, in particular their right to life and physical integrity. Especially older plants were not sufficiently equipped to withstand plane crashes and terrorist attacks, they argue. Besides, the issue of a permanent waste disposal site was still unresolved. Furthermore, they see their right to have recourse to the courts infringed by a section in the 12th amendment of the AtG.

At least two more lawsuits are reported to be  in preparation. Firstly, five federal states lead by Social Democrat governments announced bring proceedings claiming an infringement of the rights of the Bundesrat. The Bundesrat should have been asked for its consent to the AtG amendments, they claim. Secondly, the parliamentary groups of the SPD and the Greens also agreed to have the constitutionality of the amendments reviewed.

Several local utilities (Stadtwerke) have also been questioning whether the extension is compatible with EU law. They already lodged a complaint with the European Commission last November, claiming that the extension distorts competition to the detriment of the smaller power generating companies.

Source: Greenpeace press release, Constitutional Complaint

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