Vattenfall versus Germany

08 June 2012

Vattenfall has filed a case against Germany with an international arbitration service one year after the country tore up a carefully negotiated nuclear policy.

The filing lists Vattenfall versus Germany in the subject area of nuclear power. It rests with the autonomous International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), which was designed in 1965 by the World Bank and established by a convention now signed by 143 countries.

The move marks a new high in efforts by the nuclear utilities that suffered losses from the German government's post-Fukushima actions, which included ordering eight power units to close immediately and limiting the operating lives of the remaining nine. German utilities are also obliged to continue paying a tax on nuclear fuel, despite the government abandoning lifetime extension pledges negotiated at the same time.

One year on

"The great social consensus on the departure of nuclear energy has come on the basis of false promises," said the head of the German Nuclear Society, Astrid Petersen, today.

Marking the first anniversary of Chancellor Angela Merkel's new energy vision, Petersen pointed out: "There is still no timetable to see how the performance of the shutdown nuclear power stations can be replaced, step by step at specified dates."

Seeking to invigorate the program, Merkel recently installed Peter Altmaier as minister for energy, environment and nuclear safety.

EOn and RWE have challenged the fuel tax in court with some success, although government appeals have kept the matter open. Observers expect no resolution before the case reaches the European level.

Owned by the Swedish state, Vattenfall is taking a different route. It never had to directly pay the fuel tax due to a combination of outages and ownership structures for the three German reactors in which it holds stakes. Instead, the company is contesting the confiscation of generation rights for the Brunsbuttel and Krummel nuclear power plants. Vattenfall has previously said simply that it expects full compensation for its costs, which it noted as SEK10 billion ($1.5 billion) for the first half of 2011 alone.

The other utility hit by Germany's policy shift is EnBW, which is 45% owned by the Green-governed state of Baden-Wurttemburg. The company lost its challenge on the fuel tax and did not appeal. It did not challenge the shutdown order.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News