Belgian law extending the life of Doel 1 and Doel 2 nuclear plants was adopted without required prior environmental assessments, the General Counsel of the EU Court of Justice (ECJ) Julianne Kokott said Thursday, adding, however, that maintaining the effects of the prolongation law for supply security reasons is not to be ruled out. The General Counsel’s opinion does not bind the Court, but judges follow her reasoning in the majority of cases.
In 2015, the Michel Government had decided to extend by a decade the lifespan of Doel 1 and 2 reactors, the country’s oldest.
The non-profit organizations Inter-Environment Wallonia (IEW) and Bond Beter Leefmilieu Vlaanderen (BBL) had filed an application for this law’s annulment before the Constitutional Court, arguing that the government had conducted neither an impact assessment nor a public inquiry. Even though, according to them, several European provisions imposed the implementation of such a procedure before either an extension or a revival of these reactors is allowed.
The Constitutional Court referred the application to European Justice in June 2017, with several preliminary questions.
In her conclusions, the ECJ General Counsel sees “a number of elements suggesting that the law (…) was adopted in disregard of the Union’s legal provisions with regard to fulfilling the environmental assessment, without finding justification in the electricity supply or legal security.”
She believes, however, that “in this case, the possibility of maintaining the effects of the law is not to be ruled out.” For Ms. Kokott considers that national courts may, on an exceptional basis, “provisionally maintain the effects of a decision which was adopted in breach of an obligation under EU law to conduct an environmental assessment,” provided this decision be subject to regularization serving the procedural defect, and at the earliest.