Legal opinion of environmental associations: “incident operation” next to nuclear power plant

Experts consider a planned gas terminal in Brunsbuttel to be ineligible for approval. The Ministry of Economics in Kiel disagrees.

Already dangerous enough: Brunsbuettel nuclear power plant in Schleswig-Holstein Photo: ap

Opposition to the planned new import ports for liquefied natural gas (LNG) on the North Sea coast is now shifting to the legal level. On Tuesday, an alliance of German Environmental Aid (DUH), local environmental groups, and the Hamburg-based "Fridays for Future" movement presented a legal opinion stating that the planned LNG terminal in Brunsbuttel "cannot be approved for safety reasons," according to the report. The "siting of an incident operation" contradicts the requirements in immission control and nuclear law and also violates the development plan of the municipality of Brunsbuttel.

Planning is underway for LNG ports at the possible sites of Brunsbuttel, Stade and Wilhelmshaven. The expert report only deals with Brunsbuttel. There, a decommissioned nuclear power plant and two interim nuclear storage facilities, a waste incineration plant and a chemical park are located in the immediate vicinity of the planned construction site. As a result, the "appropriate safety distances" would not be observed, complained Cornelia Ziehm, the lawyer who prepared the expert opinion. And in the current building planning law, "the siting of a major accident operation is expressly stipulated as impermissible."

Constantin Zerger of DUH criticizes the plans above all for creating a new infrastructure for fossil fuels that contradicts Germany’s climate goals. The environmentalists suspect that the port will primarily receive LNG from the USA, which is produced there using the controversial fracking method. In addition, there is no need for further terminals in Europe, according to the environmentalists. Zerger announced that they reserve the right to file lawsuits in the approval process if the arguments are not heard in the political arena.

US government puts pressure on Germany

The German government and the state of Schleswig-Holstein, on the other hand, support the projects. Importing LNG is intended to guarantee energy security and make Germany less dependent on gas from Russia, according to official sources. However, the U.S. government has long urged that Germany finally create more import opportunities. Only recently, U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry indirectly threatened to impose tariffs on European cars if the EU did not buy more U.S. gas. The German government, in turn, specially amended the relevant ordinance a few weeks ago so that the costs of connection to the gas grid are not to be paid by the investor, but by the gas customers.

Schleswig-Holstein’s Minister of Economics Bernd Buchholz (FDP) finds the legal arguments of the opponents of the LNG terminal in Brunsbuttel "unsupportable". For him, the planned 500-million-euro project in his state is an "investment in the future." TuV Nord had submitted an expert opinion showing how the safety issues could be resolved, the minister explained. "We assume that the project can be approved."

The planners of the project, German LNG Terminal, also emphasized that they have been "in intensive and regular exchange with the relevant approval authorities and the responsible state ministries in Kiel on these safety issues for more than a year." The approval process includes "a planning approval procedure under port law, a permit under immission control law, including environmental impact assessment and examination under the Major Accidents Ordinance, a permit under construction law, permits and exceptions under nature conservation law, and permits under water law."

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