Article Germany: Amendment of Atomic Energy Act Extends Lifespan of Remaining Nuclear Power Plants to Avert Energy Crisis

On December 9, 2022, an amendment to the Atomic Energy Act (Atomgesetz, AtG) entered into force, extending the lifespan of the three remaining nuclear power plants in Germany until April 15, 2023. The nuclear power plants in question are Emsland, Isar 2, and Neckarwestheim 2. They were previously slated to be shut down on December 31, 2022. (AtG § 7, para. 1a.)

The temporary continued operation is one of several measures to avert an energy crisis in the 2022/23 winter resulting from the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent “artificially created scarcity of natural gas by Russia.” Other measures are allowing available lignite-fired, hard-coal-fired, and mineral oil power plants to return to operation, increasing electricity transmission and electricity production from renewables, and agreeing on a short-term increase of load management potentials with the Federal Network Agency (Bundesnetzagentur) and the transmission system operators. (Explanatory memorandum at 1.)

Background on Nuclear Energy Policy in Germany

In 2002, the German parliament enacted the Phase-Out Act (Ausstiegssgesetz). It allocated residual electricity output allowances to individual nuclear power plants that could also be transferred to other, newer power plants. The nuclear power plants were to be shut down after the allocated amounts were used up. The 2002 Phase-Out Act did not set fixed end dates for the operation of the nuclear power plants.

In 2009, the newly elected German government agreed on a modified energy policy. According to the modified energy policy, nuclear energy was to be used for a longer period of time as a “bridging technology.” The Eleventh Act to Amend the Atomic Energy Act (Elftes Gesetz zur Änderung des Atomgesetzes) therefore granted additional electricity output allowances to the nuclear power plants, thereby extending the operating life of the plants by an average of 12 years.

Following the nuclear accident in Fukushima, Japan, in 2011, the German parliament enacted the Thirteenth Act to Amend the Atomic Energy Act (13th Amendment Act), which set fixed end dates for the operation of nuclear power plants and reversed the decision to award additional electricity output allowances to the plants. In December 2016, the German Federal Constitutional Court held that the amendment was partially unconstitutional. It stated that it violated the constitutionally guaranteed right to property because the electricity output allowances allocated to each power plant could not be fully used by the end date and that the 13th Amendment Act did not provide for compensation for investments made by the utilities in reasonable expectation of the additional operating lifetime. The court set a deadline of June 30, 2018, for the legislature to draw up new provisions. In 2020, the court held that the revised act had not entered into force and, additionally, did not fulfill the requirements set out by the court in its 2016 decision. It stated that the legislature remained obligated to enact new provisions. The 18th Amendment Act was therefore enacted in 2021.

Jenny Gesley, Law Library of Congress
December 15, 2022

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Chicago citation style:

Gesley, Jenny. Germany: Amendment of Atomic Energy Act Extends Lifespan of Remaining Nuclear Power Plants to Avert Energy Crisis. 2022. Web Page. https://www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2022-12-14/germany-amendment-of-atomic-energy-act-extends-lifespan-of-remaining-nuclear-power-plants-to-avert-energy-crisis/.

APA citation style:

Gesley, J. (2022) Germany: Amendment of Atomic Energy Act Extends Lifespan of Remaining Nuclear Power Plants to Avert Energy Crisis. [Web Page] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2022-12-14/germany-amendment-of-atomic-energy-act-extends-lifespan-of-remaining-nuclear-power-plants-to-avert-energy-crisis/.

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Gesley, Jenny. Germany: Amendment of Atomic Energy Act Extends Lifespan of Remaining Nuclear Power Plants to Avert Energy Crisis. 2022. Web Page. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <www.loc.gov/item/global-legal-monitor/2022-12-14/germany-amendment-of-atomic-energy-act-extends-lifespan-of-remaining-nuclear-power-plants-to-avert-energy-crisis/>.