Germany's top court: State-ordered nuclear shutdown was illegal

Not as sexy as France's scandal, but this is one to watch, as utility RWE is now suing the government.

France currently has a presidential love triangle to tantalize the public. Not to be outdone, its good friend to the east, Germany, is now offering up a story that energy boffins might find equally scandalous: The country's top court has ruled that the state-imposed shutdown of a nuclear power station in 2011 was illegal.

RWE, the giant utility that owns the Biblis plant along the Rhine River, is now readying a lawsuit against the German state of Hesse for millions of euros, Reuters reported

Hesse had ordered the precautionary shutdown for three months following the meltdowns at Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant in March 2011.

Subsequently, Germany's federal government, led by chancellor Angela Merkel, ordered the closure of all of Germany's nuclear operations by 2022, leading to billions of euros of writedowns and thousand of job losses at Germany's top utilities which besides number two RWE including leader E.ON, EnBW and Vattenfall, Reuters said.

Biblis has remained idle since Hesse first ordered its closure. RWE has estimated the costs of dismantling its two reactors there at €1.5 billion ($2 billion).

"The company has previously said it suffered losses of over €1 billion ($1.3 billion) in 2011 alone due to the Biblis shutdown," World Nuclear News reported.

This week's action applies only to the Biblis station and the Hesse-ordered closure. It will be interesting to see if it emboldens Germany utilities and nuclear operators to take other action in a country that has struggled to generate clean, low-CO2, affordable electricity since the decision to walk away from nuclear - a decision that many to this day still consider to be outrageous.

Cover photo of Angela Merkel is from Wikimedia

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