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Constitution and Laws

Basic Law

The Basic Law includes provisions on the legislative and administrative competencies of the Federation and the Länder regarding the use of nuclear energy. Moreover, fundamental principles are established that are also applicable to the nuclear law.
With the basic rights, in particular the right to life and physical integrity, it determines the standard to be applied to the protective and preventive measures at nuclear power plants. The principle of proportionality and guaranty of property, laid down in the Basic Law, must also be considered.

Atomic Energy Act

The Atomic Energy Act was promulgated on 23 December 1959 right after the Federal Republic of Germany had officially renounced any use of atomic weapons. Since then, it has been amended several times. The purpose of the Atomic Energy Act after the amendment of 2002 is to end the use of nuclear energy for the commercial production of electricity in a structured manner and to ensure regular operation until the date of discontinuation, as well as to protect life, health and property against the hazards of nuclear energy and the detrimental effects of ionising radiation and, furthermore, to provide for the compensation for any damage and injuries incurred. It also has the purpose of preventing the internal or external security of the Federal Republic of Germany from being endangered by the utilisation of nuclear energy. Another purpose of the Atomic Energy Act is to ensure that the Federal Republic of Germany meets its international obligations in the field of nuclear energy and radiation protection.

The 13th amendment to the Atomic Energy Act which regulated the termination of the use of nuclear energy for commercial electricity production in Germany was passed by the German Federal Parliament (Bundestag) on 30 June 2011 and entered into force on 6 August 2011. As a consequence, the nuclear power generation in Germany is phased out step-by-step by the end of 2022.

The Atomic Energy Act includes the general national regulations for protective and preventive measures, radiation protection and the disposal of radioactive waste and irradiated fuel elements in Germany and is the basis for the associated ordinances.

Further to purpose and general provisions, the Atomic Energy Act also comprises surveillance regulations, general regulations on competencies of the administrative authorities, liability provisions and provisions on the payment of fines.

With respect to the protection against the hazards from radioactive materials and to the supervision of their utilisation, the Atomic Energy Act requires that the construction and operation of nuclear installations is subject to regulatory licensing. Prerequisites and procedures for licensing and performance of supervision are specified, including the regulations for consulting authorised experts (Section 20 of the Atomic Energy Act) and charging of costs (Section 21 of the Atomic Energy Act). However, most of these regulations are not exhaustive and are further substantiated regarding procedures and substantive legal requirements by ordinances and the regulatory framework.

According to Section 7 of the Atomic Energy Act, a licence is required for the construction, operation or any other holding of a stationary installation for the production, treatment, processing or fission of nuclear fuel, or for essentially modifying such installation or its operation. This licence may only be granted if the licensing prerequisites stated in Section 7 para. 2 of the Atomic Energy Act are fulfilled if, e.g.

  • there are no known facts giving rise to doubts as to the trustworthiness of the applicant and of the person responsible for the construction, management and supervision of the plant, and the persons responsible for the construction, management and supervision of the plant have the requisite qualification (number 1),
  • it is assured that the persons who are otherwise engaged in the operation of the installation have the necessary knowledge concerning the safe operation of the installation, the possible hazards and the protective measures to be taken (number 2),
  • the necessary precautions against damage have been taken in the light of the state of the art in science and technology (number 3),
  • the necessary financial security has been provided to comply with the legal liability to pay compensation for damage (number 4),
  • the necessary protection has been provided against malicious acts or other interference by third parties (number 5) and
  • the selection of the site of the installation does not conflict with overriding public interests, in particular in view of its environmental impacts (number 6).

Today these requirements are only relevant as licensing prerequisite for modifications or the decommissioning of existing plants, since Section 7 para. 1 sentence 2 of the Atomic Energy Act stipulates that no further licences will be issued for the construction and operation of nuclear power plants and reprocessing facilities.

In addition to the Atomic Energy Act, the Radiation Precautionary Act of 1986, which came about as a reaction to the reactor accident at Chernobyl, specifies the tasks of environmental monitoring in particular in the case of events with significant radiological effects.

Another legal basis to be mentioned is the "Act on the Establishment of a Federal Office for Radiation Protection" by which certain tasks, among others, relating to the safety of nuclear power plants are delegated to this office to support the nuclear federal authorities.

Last update: 15.12.2015