Legal and Technical Questions Following Nuclear Power Moratorium

Since the nuclear power moratorium has been announced last week, its implementation is leading to several legal and technical questions being raised.

As all parties involved are looking more closely into the consequences of the moratorium, it becomes clear that its wider legal and technical implications warrant additional attention. Here is an overview of some questions that have recently been raised publicly:

  • Payments into the Energy and Climate Fund: With the extension of the operating times for nuclear power plants last October, a new special purpose Energy and Climate Fund (Energie- und Klimafonds) for the promotion of an environmentally-friendly, reliable and affordable energy supply was created. A large part of the revenue of the fund is supposed to come from a contractual agreement with the operators of the German nuclear power plants. In return for the extension of the operating times, they are obliged to pay EUR 300 million into the fund in the years 2011 to 2013, and EUR 200 million from 2013 to 2016. As of 2017 payments depend on a number of factors. According to Süddeutsche Zeitung, the nuclear power plant operators are threatening to stop the EUR 27 million in payments payable during the time of the 3-month moratorium announced by Chancellor Merkel.
  • Fuel Rod Tax: The nuclear power extension also introduced a tax on nuclear fuel rods aimed at raising EUR 2.3 billion per year. The tax is levied on plutonium and uranium used in the nuclear power plants. With the 3-month shut down of the seven oldest nuclear power plants, the German state loses roughly EUR 200 million in revenue, as the the television and radio station SWR points out referring to Finance State Secretary Hartmut Koschyk.
  • Nuclear Regulations: The Atomic Energy Act (AtG) and ordinances pertaining to nuclear energy law are supplemented by a set of nuclear regulations (kerntechnisches Regelwerk). Its a compilation of safety standards for all nuclear power plants in operation. These standards originally date back to the late 1970s and early 1980s, and a draft revision for new Nuclear Safety Standards has been compiled. The German federation and the sixteen federal states agreed to test them from mid-2009 to late October 2010 in actual operation. Amendments were supposed to be finished by mid-2011. However, the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Protection and Nuclear Safety has pointed out that after the events in Japan, the draft Nuclear Safety Standards had to be updated. It remains to be seen if the mid-2011 deadline can be met, and what revised safety requirements will be stipulated.
  • Transfer of Generation Capacity: The recent nuclear power extension amendment granted additional generation capacity allowances to the individual nuclear power plants.  An important question will be whether or to what extent the operators of the seven plants currently shut down under the moratorium will be able to transfer generation capacity allowances to other plants if the plants will not be allowed to start operating again. In principle, the AtG allows a transfer of generation capacity allowances to other plants.
  • Effect on Other Nuclear Facilities: Energate reported that in view of the safety checks for the German nuclear power plants during the 3-month moratorium, the district commissioner (Landrat) for the district of Borken asked for a review of the uranium enrichment plant in Gronau and the temporary nuclear waste storage site of Ahaus.
  • Grid expansion: Federal Minister for Technology and Economics Rainer Brüderle (FDP) and Environment Minister Norbert Röttgen advocate for further accelerating grid expansion in order to promote renewable energy and ensure the transmission of wind and solar power across Germany, Süddeutsche Zeitung writes today. In the past, grid expansion has often been slowed down by lawsuits brought against power lines.

Sources: Süddeutsche Zeitung (Energy and Climate Fund Payments), SWR (Nuclear Fuel Rod Tax), BMU (Nuclear Safety Standards), Kontraste – ARD (Nuclear Safety Standards), energateSüddeutsche Zeitung (grid expansion)

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