RWE to sue over German nuclear plant closures

German utility RWE has mounted a legal challenge against Berlin’s decision to close seven of the country’s 17 nuclear power stations after the nuclear crisis in Japan.
 
According to the Financial Times, RWE is to file a complaint on Friday with the administrative court in the state of Hesse, home to the Biblis A plant, which the utility took off line after the government decree three weeks ago.
 
Compatriots E.ON could follow with a court challenge to Berlin’s new nuclear energy tax. Both challenges could take months to resolve, reports the newspaper.
 
RWE wants the court in the city of Kassel to test Berlin’s contention, considered dubious by many legal experts, that the government can mothball nuclear plants on safety grounds even if they have not broken specific rules.
 
This is the first action taken by Germany’s four nuclear-power generators after the government announced plans for the seven-plant “moratorium” and a three-month safety review, after which the plants were scheduled to reopen. The parameters of this review were announced on Thursday.
 
Terrorist aircraft attacks on nuclear power stations are among tough scenarios the government plans to assess, possibly forcing E.ON, RWE, EnBW and Vattenfall to choose between costly upgrades and closing plants.
 
Norbert Röttgen, environment minister, said the probe would reveal “which risks are covered and which risks we can’t cover” and set the basis for a government decision about energy policy, which would come in the middle of June.
 
Rudolf Wieland, head of Germany’s reactor security commission, said he and 15 colleagues would evaluate events – such as terrorists crashing aircraft into a nuclear plant – previously considered too improbable for consideration.
 
He noted that the nuclear plants in Japan were not dealt a fatal blow by the earthquake but by the ensuing tsunami. He said: “What we all underestimated were the effects that natural phenomena could have”.
 
Technicians and scientists on the panel would assess the consequence of a three-day power outage on each reactor. Past reviews had looked into a “station blackout” of only two hours, Wieland said.
 
Mr Röttgen said the parameters of the review were “the toughest worldwide” and pledged to push for the adoption of German standards “mainly in the EU but also in the G20” industrialized and emerging economies.
 
In response to widespread public fears about nuclear energy, Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor, reassessed her pronuclear stance – which had seen her delay the country’s nuclear phase-out from 2022 to 2036 – soon after the crisis struck in Japan. Officials at some utilities at first privately expected one or two of the oldest reactors to be closed for good but calls are mounting in government ranks to close permanently all seven mothballed plants.
 
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