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Germany: Parliament Extends Life of Nuclear Power Plants

(Nov. 29, 2010) Despite strong opposition, on November 26, 2010, the Bundestag (German Parliament) approved a bill amending the Atomic Energy Act to extend by an average of 12 years the lifespan of the country's 17 nuclear power plants. Opposition parties have declared that they will appeal to Germany's Federal Constitutional Court to rule on the amendment's constitutionality, outraged at the ruling coalition “not only for overturning a key part of their legacy but also because of the government's attempt to bypass the Bundesrat, the country's second legislative chamber representing the 16 German states, where the government does not enjoy a majority.” (Siobhán Dowling, The World from Berlin: Extension of Nuclear Lifespans Is 'Pure Conservatism,' SPIEGEL ONLINE (Oct. 29, 2010),,1518,7

Moreover, surveys reportedly indicated “that a majority of Germans are opposed to atomic power because of concerns over safety.” (Nicole Goebel, Germany Passes Law on Extending the Lifespans of Nuclear Power Plants, DW-WORLD.DE (Bonn) (Nov. 26, 2010),,,6272042,00.html.)Nuclear power opponents have also started a petition on the Internet urging German President Christian Wulff to veto the bill. German presidents have reportedly only exercised their veto power eight times in the past 61 years. (Id.)

The new 11th amendment of the Atomic Energy Act allocates additional generation quantities to the plants, which will result in the extended lifespan. Those plants that began operations in or before 1980 will be allotted quantities to last for an additional 8 years; the allocation for newer facilities will allow a 14-year extension. As a result, the last plant will shut down in 2035. Under the current Atomic Energy Act, the maximum amount of electricity that each nuclear power plant was permitted to produce was limited to an amount aimed at shutting down the last plant by 2022. (Bundestag Votes in Favour of Nuclear Power Extension and Energy Concept, GERMAN ENERGY BLOG (Oct. 28, 2010),

The 12th amendment to the Act adds provisions necessary for transposing European Union Council Directive 2009/71/Euratom in to German law (Council Directive 2009/71/Euratom of 25 June 2009 Establishing a Community Framework for the Nuclear Safety of Nuclear Installations (adopted on June 25, 2009), OFFICIAL JOURNAL OF THE EUROPEAN UNION L 172 (July 2, 2009), p. 18–22, available at EUR-LEX online legal database No. 32009L0071,
). It also introduces “additional safety requirements for nuclear power operators, obliging them to further develop and refine safety standards in accordance with the development of science and technology” and “a provision allowing expropriations in favour of the exploration and operation of nuclear waste disposal sites.” (Bundestag Votes in Favour of Nuclear Power Extension and Energy Concept, supra.)

In a related development, a new Nuclear Fuel Rod Tax Law will enter into force on January 1, 2011. The law imposes a tax on the rods, used to generate electricity by the country's four major energy companies, until December 31, 2016. (Goebel, supra.) The government hopes to use the law to recover some of the extra profits – an estimated €2.3 billion (about US$3.045 billion) per year – that the companies are projected to make as a result of their extended lifespan. (Id.;Bundestag Votes in Favour of Nuclear Power Extension and Energy Concept, supra.)