German court paves way for nuclear compensation claims

AP News
Posted: Dec 06, 2016 5:15 AM

BERLIN (AP) — Germany's highest court opened the way on Tuesday for potentially costly compensation claims from electricity companies over the government's abrupt decision in 2011 to shut down several nuclear reactors and accelerate the closure of the rest.

Three big power companies went to the Federal Constitutional Court to argue that the decision following Japan's Fukushima nuclear disaster in March 2011, which came months after Chancellor Angela Merkel's government had agreed to extend the reactors' lifespan, constituted expropriation.

The court rejected that claim Tuesday, but found that the operators — E.On, RWE and Vattenfall — were entitled to "appropriate" compensation given that the government didn't foresee recompense for planned investments or guarantee that their plants could generate the quantities of electricity plants set out in earlier plans.

It didn't specify what level of compensation might be appropriate. The companies have argued that the accelerated shutdown caused them significant economic damage, but haven't put a figure on possible claims.

The government decided to shut down eight of the country's 17 nuclear reactors immediately and phase out the rest by the end of 2022, with set dates for each to close. It was a sudden and startling about-face for Merkel's center-right governing coalition of the day.

The federal court gave the government until June 2018 to adjust legislation to comply with the ruling.