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German city of Aachen to sue Belgian power plant

Elizabeth SchumacherFebruary 2, 2016

The city of Aachen is suing a neighboring nuclear station over claims of failure to fix safety issues at the aging plant. The suit alleges that a reactor was brought back online with cracks in the protective concrete.

Atomkraftwerk in Tihange Belgien
Image: Getty Images/AFP/E. Lalmand

The German city of Aachen announced on Tuesday it would launch a lawsuit against a nuclear power plant in Belgium. In a unanimous decision, the government for the metropolitan area agreed to bring the suit to the Belgian administrative court amid ongoing safety concerns Aachen said have yet to be addressed.

The Tihange nuclear power plant lies about 71 kilometers (44 miles) from Aachen, and the city itself is directly on Germany's border with Belgium. According to city authorities, they are suing for breach of European law over re-commissioning a faulty reactor in an effort to have the entire power station shut down.

Infografik Atomkraftwerke in Belgien Update Februar 2016 Englisch

German media reported that one of Tihange's reactors, called Tihange 2, was taken offline in March 2014 due to hairline cracks in the concrete blocks. The reactor was then put back in service in March 2015 without the necessary repairs, according to Aachen's legal claim.

A series of dangerous incidents

"In recent weeks, the nuclear power plants Doel and Tihange have had several hazardous incidents. People in the 'three-country region' [of German, Belgium and the Netherlands] are deeply unsettled and worried," said a press release from the Aachen authorities.

The statement announces the intention to first bring the suit before the Belgian courts, with a possible second claim to be launched at the European Union level in Brussels, "with the aim of decommissioning Tihange 2."

The city also mentions forthcoming legal action by Greenpeace to target another Tihange reactor, Tihange 1, hoping to have it too taken out of commission.

Antinukleare Proteste in Aachen
Protestors gathered in Aachen after the owners of Tihange, Electrabel, announced a bid to restart one of the plant's aging reactorsImage: DW/G. Borrud

Nuclear energy is a hot topic in Germany. Since the 2011 disaster in Fukushima, Japan, Berlin has moved to slowly have all atomic power stations in the country taken off the grid. These efforts may prove pointless in a disaster, however, as Belgium and France both have several nuclear plants very close to their frontiers with Germany.

In December, more than 1,500 demonstrators took the streets of Aachen after the German government said they could see no legal recourse to stop Belgium using the Tihange 1 reactor.