German Federal Administrative Law Court on Nuclear Shutdown

Hans Bienfait recently asked in a comment for my opinion on the decision of the German Federal Administrative Law Court on the nuclear shutdown in 2011. He cited this article at World Nuclear News.

The original decision is here (in German). It deals mainly with the question if the plaintiffs had enough opportunity to explain their point of view before the decision in question. That they did not have that opportunity was one reason the lower court said the decision was unlawful.

The Federal Court affirmed that opinion of the lower court.

What does that mean?

It does not mean that the shutdown of the nuclear plant in question (Biblis) is illegal even now. In the meantime the German legislator has decided with a large majority that this plant should be shut down from 8 August 2011 on.

Therefore, RWE (the plaintiff) may be entitled to some form of compensation. But they will never again be able to actually produce electricity with that plant.

There are different opinions about the merits of nuclear energy. I am neutral on that question, having abandoned a previous pro-nuclear position.

Even if you are opposed to nuclear energy, I think it makes sense that someone running a nuclear reactor like the plaintiff RWE in this case gets the normal procedural protections of administrative law (e.g. the right to voice their point of view before a decision). And I think it is a good thing that German companies don’t put up with illegal behavior by regulators. Guarantees of fair procedure in administrative law are only worth as much as the readiness of such companies to fight for their rights.

Published by kflenz

Professor at Aoyama Gakuin University, Tokyo. Author of Lenz Blog (since 2003,

3 thoughts on “German Federal Administrative Law Court on Nuclear Shutdown

  1. It’s more a problem of federal vs state. Merkel decided, but Hessen had to make the regulation. He ministry Puttrich screwed it up. Now she is in Merkels cabinet as M for european connections.
    The decissive point is, without the “Laufzeitverlängerung” in the year before Fukushima, Biblis would have to be shut down anyhow. And it was He MP Roland Koch, who fixed it together with BaWü MP Oettinger (now EU comissioner of Energy), that the 40+runtime was “irreversibel”, at least under financial aspects, as Greenpeace covered up.


  2. Lenz, you like many other people in Germany who truly want to reduce carbon have been cheated by the German intelligentsia.

    From start their aim was to kill nuclear and replace it with coal, with not the slightest concern for carbon emissions. The proof is here, this quote from Gabriel Sigmar in **2009** where he fights the opposition to new coal plants, says they *must* be built, that renewable simply won’t be able to replace nuclear, and that gas just will not be the solution because it’s too expensive :

    Now that guy is back to power, and what does he do now ? Well of course, get rid of what has finally been more of an hindrance to coal that he thought would be. And keep shutting down nuclear but just in order to bring more profit to coal plants, with no concern about carbon.


  3. That’s an interesting link. I am looking ahead to discussing it in a blog post.

    As to nuclear, it is certainly not only Gabriel that is keeping shutting down nuclear. That’s a broad consensus in Germany. You could not vote for any party of those clearing the 5 percent hurdle last year that would disagree with that decision.

    With nuclear out by 2022, something else needs to fill that reduction in supply. Gabriel was pessimistic as to whether renewable would be able to do so. It seems he was wrong.

    Your criticism of Gabriel is shared by former Member of Parliament Fell, who says that Gabriel’s position is one of protecting coal. He may be right.


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