Access information on Multilateral Environmental Agreements

Title
VG Berlin, 20.06.2017 - 10 L 667.17
Party
Germany
Date of text
June 20, 2017
Data source
InforMEA
Court name
Verwaltungsgericht Berlin (Administrative Court Berlin)
Seat of court
Berlin
Reference number
10 L 667.17
Abstract

In March 2014 a company commissioned by the operator of the Obrigheim nuclear power plant applied for approval of the transport of nuclear waste from the respective power plant to the interim storage facility in Neckarwestheim.

The application was approved by the Federal Agency for Nuclear Waste Disposal Safety (Bundesamt für kerntechnische Entsorgungssicherheit) in May 2017 ordering the immediate execution of the transport until November 2018 allowing means of transport both by land and by water.

The community of Neckerwestheim, situated by the Castor transport route requested access to the documents concerning the approval of the transport. For reasons of secrecy, some documents were not handed out at all and those that the community received contained passages concerned with protective measures that were blacked out. With their application, the community of Neckarwestheim aimed at stopping the transport of nuclear waste as they feared possible threats to municipal facilities such as a sewage treatment plant, several kindergartens and a gym. They argue that assessing the scope of these threats is only possible if they receive full access to the relevant documents.
The Administrative Court (Verwaltungsgericht) in Berlin rejected their application, because assessing whether the protective measures against the risks of discharge of ionising radiation are sufficient, is, for the time being, not possible. This is due to the fact that the relevant documents are, for reasons of secrecy, not made available to the court either. In such situations, there are in camera proceeding in place serving the purpose of examining the legitimacy of the refusal to give full access to relevant documents. However, this proceeding was bypassed due to the urgency of the matter, seeing as the decision would have otherwise been significantly delayed.

Finally, the court had to balance the competing interests concerning the enforcement of approval for the castor transport. There is significant public interest in a prompt decommissioning of the power plant in Obrigheim, which would otherwise be delayed. Against this background, it was held to be reasonable for the applicant, who is only faced with the violation of the community’s self-administration, to provisionally accept the enforcement of the approval. The application was therefore refused.