Atomic Forum President Majewski Is Looking for Consensus

Berlin, 04.10.1999

At a working conference of the German Atomic Forum in Berlin, its president Otto Majewski emphasised the basic willingness of the power companies to look for a consensus. He said: "We are neither pig-headed nor bad-tempered - we are interested in reaching an agreement without delay which we can endorse, as business managers, towards our shareholders, our customers, and our employees." He used the term " praiseworthy, at least " to describe the efforts of German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer "to bring flexibility into the discussions on the terms". However, this flexibility should not be cancelled out by any hardening on other points such as the question of transport of spent nuclear fuel elements from German nuclear power plants.

As Mr Majewski went on to say, "We will not accept a back-door phase-out of nuclear power generation. Anyone who wants a consensus will have to be frank and honest in their dealings with us. The previous German government imposed 10 requirements on the shipment of Castor flasks, all of which we met long ago, but this socialist-environmentalist government has now imposed more than 100, with no sign of the list ending. A policy of cascading requirements, constant needling, and endless administrative or new bureaucratic hurdles is endangering our shared goal of producing a durable energy policy which all groupings can accept."

The President of the German Atomic Forum issued a warning: "If Mr Trittin, the German Environment Minister, stick to his methods of delay and hindering, and constantly setting up new hurdles, the German power utilities will have to sue the Federal Government for damages running into several billions."

Mr Majewski went on to say: "We have never refused to discuss factual matters in any respect, but have always stated clearly that we want, in our own interests, to arrive at a reasonable consensus on energy and a workable agreement. This applies equally to the service lives of the plants, the resumption of transports, and to intermediate and final storage."

The deadline for settling the transport question, according to Mr Majewski, is "the end of 1999. If we cannot achieve a clear situation soon, the blockage tactics will be seen to have failed and nuclear power plants will have to be shut down."

On the subject of the service lives of nuclear power plants, Mr Majewski said: "The discussion of service life will have to be based on the technical safety of the plants and on the overall economy. 35 years at full load is the absolute bottom limit here. Anything else is, in our view, destruction of social capital and we will not stand for it."

The closure of German nuclear power plants by force of law, as announced by the German Government, is contrary to the constitution. This is the conclusion reached by the discussion event on the subject of "Legal and political limitations on the termination of nuclear power without compensation" which took place at the German Atom Forum in Berlin. The speakers from the platform were: Professor Udo Di Fabio, a Munich expert on constitutional law and on nuclear law; Matthias Wissmann, the economics spokesman of the CDU; and Otto Majewski, the President of the German Atomic Forum and chairman of the management board of Bayernwerk.

Professor di Fabio explained during the course of the debate that a termination by force of law would in particular violate the basic right to own property enshrined in Article 14 of the German constitution. A statutory order to shut plants down in the form of specific limitations on plant service life would not fall under the heading of "defining the nature of property ownership, but would be legalised dispossession because it would represent the deliberate withdrawal of a legal position which was previously protected by the law on owning property". No retro-active time limit placed on an operating licence previously granted for an indefinite period would be legal unless the "good of the general public" required it. There is a clear definition available here in constitutional law: "The mere political reassessment of risks which adjudication has regarded as "practically non-existent", and which legislation has so far accepted, is insufficient," according to Professor Di Fabio.

If the German Government terminates nuclear power by passing a law against it, this will prove expensive. The socialist-environmentalist dream of termination free of charge is a fairy-tale. As Professor Di Fabio says, "The decisive factor in calculating the amount of compensation is the economic value of the plant at the point in time when its closure is ordered. The criterion for calculating this is its replacement value, which means principally the profit-flow value of the plant."

Mr Wissmann, as a CDU [opposition] politician, explained that a policy of radically terminating nuclear power for purely ideological reasons would not in any way meet the stringent requirements of climate protection. Germany has committed itself to bring its CO2 emissions down by 2005 to a level 25 percent below that of 1990, he pointed out, and without nuclear power it will be impossible to meet this target. He also went on to say: "Current energy policy also fails to take account of the fact that it is nuclear energy in particular that has made it possible to separate economic growth from primary energy consumption, and that it has thus facilitated a consistent policy of climate and environmental protection. The proponents of radical nuclear termination still owe us an answer to the crucial question as to how demand for energy is to be met if nuclear power is terminated prematurely." Regenerative energy, the CDU parliamentarian added, would not make nuclear power superfluous in the immediate future either.

Mr Wissmann drew the following conclusion: Any premature termination would force Germany to buy additional electric power from neighbouring European countries, but in his view "in light of the fact that in all other countries nuclear power is being produced at far lower safety standards than in Germany, this is quite senseless and in fact downright absurd." Germany is thus totally dependent on nuclear energy, from both the economic and the ecological point of view. "The socialist-environmentalist idea of `instant termination` is an unworkable idea", he stressed.


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