As if the German government didn’t have enough on its plate…

In my story in the New Republic Monday on environmental politics in Germany, I laid out a few ways in which the country’s overnight abandonment of nuclear power has backfired. Add another to the list: Lawsuits.

The Swedish energy giant Vattenfall has decided to sue the German government for shutting down the reactors it operates in Germany. The company says it invested €700 million in its German reactors after the Merkel administration decided last year to extend the operating life of nuclear plants. Now, with the post-Fukushima reversal, those investments are worthless. And Vattenfall’s asking for €1 billion in compensation. Two other energy companies have already sued the government in connection with the nuclear shutdown.

The phaseout of nuclear power is in many ways desirable: It helps allow for the development of renewable energy sources, and it removes the potential for a meltdown or attack. But the Merkel administration’s reversal was so hasty that it opened the door to some negative consequences that were probably avoidable: the short-term need to import coal and nuclear power from Germany’s neighbors, sharply rising energy costs, and now lawsuits.


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