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14 January 2014
The forced closure of RWE's Biblis nuclear power plant after the Fukushima accident was unlawful, the German Supreme Administrative Court has ruled.
The utility is now likely to sue for considerable damages while the decision may set a precedent for the other shutdown reactors. Germany's reaction to the Fukushima accident in 2011 was extreme, with Chancellor Angela Merkel making two decisions: one to order a shutdown of eight units that started operation in or before 1980 for a three-month moratorium period; and subsequently that those units may not be allowed to restart. Without consultation or reference to independent regulatory advice on the safety of the plants, the orders were executed by the German states which are home to the reactors.
Today the state of Hesse was told it acted illegally by enforcing the decisions on the Biblis nuclear power plant sited in the state.
The ruling by the Supreme Administrative Court in Leipzig is legally binding and cannot be appealed. It backs up a decision made last year by the Administrative Court of Hesse, which was appealed by the federal government.
Efforts to force the shutdowns were "formally unlawful because [RWE] had not been consulted and this constituted a substantial procedural error," said the court.
Plant owner RWE can now sue for compensation over the loss of the Biblis units as an asset.
The plant has two reactors, Biblis A and B, which are pressurized water reactors rated at 1167 MWe and 1240 MWe respectively and which had been licensed to operate until 2016
The company has previously said it suffered losses of over €1 billion ($1.3 billion) in 2011 alone due to the Biblis shutdown. The same shutdown orders hit Germany's other nuclear operators, EOn, Vattenfall and EnBW, although EnBW is 45% owned by the Green-governed state of Baden-Wurttemburg and is not contesting the shutdown or appealing a ruling that EOn and RWE contest both the shutdown and the fuel tax, which German courts have now referred to the European Court of Justice.
Sweden-owned Vattenfall is contesting the shutdown via international arbitrartion.
Collectively the utilities lost 8336 MWe of nuclear generating capacity, closing Biblis A and B,
Neckarwestheim 1, Brunsbuttel, Isar 1, Unterweser, and Phillipsburg 1. Despite only starting operation built in 1984, Krummel was not brought back from long-term shutdown.