German nuclear energy giant sues government

GERMAN energy giant RWE filed a legal challenge yesterday to the government’s order to shut down temporarily the country’s seven oldest nuclear reactors in light of the Fukushima crisis in Japan.

“German nuclear power stations fulfil current safety norms. There is no legal basis for shutting them down. This step is to protect the interests of our shareholders,” RWE said in a statement.

It stressed however it supported the government’s decision last month to conduct safety checks on the country’s 17 reactors in light of what Angela Merkel termed a “turning point” for the world in Japan.

She also suspended for the same period an earlier decision to postpone by around a decade until the mid-2030s the date when Europe’s biggest economy goes nuclear-free.

The original extension was highly unpopular, with critics accusing Merkel of being in cahoots with energy firms like RWE, EON, Vattenfall and EnBW, who stood to generate billions of euro in extra profits as a result.

But instead of being welcomed by voters, last month’s announcement backfired badly, leaving Merkel accused of panicking ahead of a crucial state election last Sunday, which she duly lost.

Recent weeks have seen huge anti-nuclear demonstrations, including an estimated quarter of a million — organisers said — taking to the streets last Saturday on the eve of the Baden-Wuerttemberg election.

Shares in RWE have fallen around 7.5 percent in the last month, while those of EON, which has so far said it is not challenging the government, have slumped 8.5 percent.

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