Court backs damage claims over German nuclear exit

Although the phase-out decision itself was legal, the court found, the firms have a right to "appropriate" compensation -- which is not provided for in the law as it stands.

Court backs damage claims over German nuclear exit

World Bulletin / News Desk

A German court on Tuesday ruled that energy suppliers can claim compensation over the country's nuclear power phase-out following the 2011 Fukushima disaster, dealing a blow to one of Chancellor Angela Merkel's flagship policies.

Judges did not agree with power plant operators that the shutdown ordered by lawmakers in 2011 amounted to an "expropriation" of their assets, but said the government should agree a deal to compensate the firms by June 2018.

"It was permissible for lawmakers to take the accident in Fukushima as a prompt to speed up exiting nuclear energy to protect the health of people and the environment," senior judge Ferdinand Kirchhof told the court in Karlsruhe.

The judges did not specify how much the compensation should be, but media reports said the plaintiffs -- German electricity giants EON and RWE and Sweden's Vattenfall -- had sought some 20 billion euros ($21 billion) in damages.

Merkel's government decided after Japan's 2011 Fukushima reactor meltdowns to halt operations of Germany's eight oldest nuclear plants and to shutter the other nine by 2022.

The move marked a sharp reversal for Merkel, who had earlier overturned a phase-out ordered by a previous government in 2002.

"With today's judgement from the highest German court, we have clarity in a fundamental legal question for our business and its owners," RWE Power chief executive Matthias Hartung said in a statement.

EON's CEO Johannes Teyssen told the court in March that the government's decision had penalised many small shareholders who had put their savings and pensions into the company, the largest energy provider in Germany.

In a statement Tuesday, EON said it had invested "several hundred million euros" into extending the life of its nuclear plants before the 2011 decision.

The company said it would now study the verdict and was prepared "to enter into constructive talks" with the government.

Shares in both EON and RWE climbed in Frankfurt trading on news of the decision.

EON gained around 2.75 percent by 1410 GMT, while RWE added 1.5 percent against a market up 0.33 percent on the day.

Last Mod: 06 Aralık 2016, 17:53
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