E.ON Announces Legal Action Against Nuclear Fuel Rod Tax

E.ON AG announced to take legal action against the nuclear fuel rod tax. E.ON’s announcement comes after the government agreed on a shift in its energy policy with respect to nuclear power after the Fukushima nuclear accident.

The nuclear fuel rod tax is levied on plutonium and uranium fuel rod newly installed in the nuclear power plants. The tax was introduced last year in connection with the nuclear extension, which formed part of the government’s Energy Concept.

After the nuclear accident in Fukushima, Japan, the government backtracked on nuclear extension, announcing a 3-month moratorium combined with a temporary shut down of the seven oldest nuclear power plants. Last weekend the coalition committee of the coalition parties (CDU, CSU and FDP) agreed to phase out nuclear power by 2021 (respectively 2022). This policy shift did not include an abolition of the nuclear fuel rod tax.

In a press release E.ON said it “considered the nuclear fuel tax to be unlawful when it was introduced in combination with the life extension for nuclear power stations.” The company believed that it is not in line with constitutional and European law. Adhering to the tax while at the same time significantly shortening the operating lives of the nuclear power stations would raise additional legal issues, E.ON declared.

Federal Minister of Economics and Technology Philipp Rösler (FDP) defended the government’s position. The legal reasons given for the law do not state a connection with the nuclear extension, he told the newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. They indeed only state that budget consolidation required to tap additional sources of revenue, hence the introduction of the new tax. In addition, the tax should also contribute to lower costs associated with the former salt mine Asse II for which the German Federation has to pay. Between 1967 and 1978, the salt mine was used to test nuclear waste disposal.

However, the government had expressed its intention to skim off extra profits associated with the nuclear extension in connection with the debate about last year’s Energy Concept.

E.ON’s announcement to take legal action against the nuclear fuel rod will add another lawsuit to the already existing line of nuclear power related lawsuits. The government’s Energy Concept and its partial reversal after Fukushima have meanwhile become the source of a great deal of work for German courts and lawyers with implications even on the European level.

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 court also received a request by 214 members of the parliamentary groups of the Social Democrats (SPD) and Alliance ’90/The Greens (Greens) and a request by the five federal states of Berlin, Brandenburg, Bremen, North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate to review the constitutionality of the extension of the operating times of the 17 German nuclear power plants. In November last year, several local utilities (Stadtwerke) also lodged a complaint with the European Commission, claiming that the extension distorted competition to the detriment of the smaller power generating companies.

RWE AG has brought legal action against the interim decommissioning order of the supervisory authority in Hessen for its Biblis nuclear power stations in the wake of the 3-month moratorium on the nuclear power extension.

Source: E.ON AG, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

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