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Germany

German power company sues over government nuclear freeze

One of Germany's largest power providers, RWE, has filed suit over the government-ordered closure of one of its nuclear plants. The shuttering was in response to a nuclear rethink triggered by the Japan nuclear crisis.

A stop sign outside the Biblis nuclear power station

The Biblis plant is to be closed for three months

Germany's second-largest power company has filed a lawsuit against a decision by the government of Chancellor Angela Merkel to temporarily shut down one of its nuclear power stations.

A spokeswoman for RWE said the company had filed the challenge on Friday morning before an administrative court in the city of Kassel against the directive to shut down its Biblis A reactor as part of a three-month moratorium the German government has placed on its nuclear power extension plan.

The suit was formally brought against the state of Hesse, where the reactor is located.

"There are doubts about the legal basis" for the moratorium decided by the government and "we want the court to clear up the situation," said the spokeswoman.

The company is set to lose up to 1 million euros ($1.4 million) per day in revenue while its nuclear plant idles.

RWE justified

Joachim Wieland, professor at the German University of Administrative Sciences in Speyer (DHV), is convinced that RWE's lawsuit will be successful.

RWE headquarters

The energy giant is likely to win its lawsuit

"The government is currently not only conducting its nuclear policies in a legal vacuum, it is acting illegally," he said in a radio interview on Friday. He added that Berlin appeared to have trusted that the power companies would hold still.

Wieland said that, just three months ago, the government and the legislative extended the deadline to shut down Germany's nuclear power plants by eight years, arguing that the plants were perfectly safe and an extension was no problem.

Only the legislative could change the legal situation, he said: "The government is bound to the law, it can't simply act on its own authority."

Future of the nuclear industry at stake

The government decision was in response to developments at the stricken Fukushima power station in Japan. Berlin wants to test Germany's 17 nuclear reactors to ensure they could withstand extreme circumstances such as natural disasters or terrorist attacks.

The Biblis A plant was RWE's only reactor to be hit by the closure order. Another RWE reactor located next to Biblis A had already been shut down for maintenance.

Several other German plants have been similarly affected; however, RWE's main rival, Eon, has renounced taking action against the government over the moratorium.

German Environment Minister Norbert Röttgen welcomed Eon's decision. "I don't think you could get a consensus in front of a court," he said on television, speaking before the announcement of RWE's challenge.

"It is society and, in the end, parliament that decides."

Author: Dagmar Breitenbach, Darren Mara (Reuters, AFP, AP)
Editor: Susan Houlton

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