RWE tries persuasion before lawsuit

15 March 2007

German utility RWE will try to persuade Chancellor Angela Merkel that the country’s head regulator had no legal grounds for blocking its request to extend the lifetime of the Biblis A pressurized water reactor. The company has four weeks in which it can raise objections to the 9 March decision by Sigmar Gabriel, after which it has threatened to sue the federal government.

Under Germany’s nuclear phase out agreement, the operating life of plants is limited by total output. RWE had applied for the transfer of lifetime from the Mülheim-Kärlich plant, which operated for only a short time in the 1980s before being permanently closed, to Biblis A. Gabriel has said that he decided to disallow RWE’s request because it was against the Nuclear Energy Act. However, under the phase out agreement, three federal officials must concur on the decision. The other two – cabinet aide Thomas de Maiziere and economy minister Michael Glos - have approved the lifetime extension.

It has been suggested that Merkel has already decided to allow Gabriel to overrule de Maiziere and Glos in the interest of smoothing political waters, but no cabinet decision will be finalised until after RWE’s four-week window to voice objections. RWE’s legal team argues that a majority decision by two of the three officials, rather than a three-way agreement, is required. Now RWE will hold discussions with Merkel and de Maiziere to argue their point.

The transfer of lifetime is seen as crucial for the continued operation of both Biblis units beyond 2008 and until the next round of federal elections, when the phase out plan may be overturned. Although Biblis B already has enough lifetime, the closure of one unit at the two-PWR site could render the other too costly to run.

Further information


WNA's Nuclear Power in Germany information paper

 German minister’s "No" to Biblis A extension