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Nuclear lawsuit backdown by German power utilities labeled insincere

German power companies are engaging in PR antics by offering to drop lawsuits over 2011's hasty shutdown of nuclear reactors, an anti-nuclear energy group says. A waste deposit bill goes before parliament next week.

The Hamburg-based group Ausgestrahlt said the utilities' offer amounted to only seven percent of the 12 billion euros (12.67 billion dollars) they were still seeking for Germany's overall decision to shut down all its reactors by 2022.

"So, it's not much more than a PR- [public relations] exercise," said Jochen Stay, a spokesman for Ausgestrahlt (Irradiated).

On Friday, parties in the Bundestag were sent a joint letter by Eon, RWE, EnBW, Vatterfall and Munich's Stadtwerke, offering to drop 20 lawsuits amounting to 800 million euros ($847 million).

Those lawsuits relate to German reactor shutdowns hastily ordered in 2011 after Japan's Fukushima nuclear disaster.

The incident prompted Chancellor Angela Merkel, a physicist,to abandon her pro-nuclear stance and the EU to run stress tests of the 134 plants within the bloc.

Eight German plants continue run under a phase-out plan culminating in 2022.

Older plants, such as Grafenrheinfeld near Schweinfurt in Bavaria (pictured above), were shut down as Germany intensified its drive to capture power from sustainable sources such as wind, solar and bio-gas plants. 

Deutschland Jochen Stay Sprecher von ausgestrahlt in der Bunde (imago/J. Jeske)

Anti-nuclear campaigner Jochen Stay

Phase-out is legal

On Tuesday, Germany's constitutional court said the snap shutdowns ordered in 2011 did not amount to expropriation of the utilities' assets but said "appropriate" compensation should be agreed with government by June 2018.

Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks welcomed the court's confirmation that the nuclear phase-out was legal.

The verdict preceded a key bill to be debated by parliament next week on a plan to put Germany's nuclear waste in long-term underground storage.

Long-term repository sought

Under that draft law, the utilities would have to deposit 23.6 billion euros in a state fund by 2022 to relieve them of further liability while they paid for the dismantling of their plants and "packaging" waste fuel rods for disposal.

Last July, a 33-member commission appointed by parliament defined eleven criteria, including geological stability and transparent public consultation, to be applied in identifying underground sites for long-term disposal of Germany's waste.

The experts put the overall cost at more than 50 billion euros.

ipj/jr (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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