Germany’s Constitutional Court on Tuesday ruled that energy companies have a right to compensation after the government ordered the shutdown of the country’s nuclear power plants in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima disaster.
“It was permissible for lawmakers to take the accident in Fukushima as a prompt to speed up exiting nuclear energy to protect the health of people and the environment,” senior judge Ferdinand Kirchhof told the court in Karlsruhe.
But although the phase-out decision itself was legal, the court found, the firms have a right to “appropriate” compensation from the government, which is not provided for in the law as it stands.
The judges did not however specify how much the damages should be.
Nuclear plant operators EON, RWE and Sweden’s Vattenfall took the government to court as part of a long-running battle over the exit from nuclear energy, demanding billions in compensation for what they said amounted an “expropriation” of their assets.
The ruling will come as a blow to Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has made the phase-out of atomic power one of her flagship policies.
Merkel’s government decided after Japan’s 2011 Fukushima reactor meltdowns to halt operations of Germany’s eight oldest nuclear plants and to shutter the other nine by 2022.
The move marked a sharp reversal for Merkel, who had in 2010 overturned a phase-out ordered by a previous government in 2002.
“There will only be compensation for energy quotas legally allocated in 2002,” not those fixed in 2010, Kirchhof said.
The government must agree on a settlement with the plaintiffs by the end of June 2018, the court decided.
Media reports said the three firms had sought some 20 billion euros ($21 billion) in damages.
© 2016 AFP