Third quarter of 2002

COGEMA non-suited by the highest French jurisdiction

WISE-Paris, 26 July 2002

[Posted 28/07/2002]

The Court of Dispute (Tribunal des conflits) made a historical decision on 01 July 2002, by non-suiting COGEMA and the Prefect of la Manche in the case against Greenpeace concerning the illegal import to France of Australian spent fuel. The highest French jurisdiction created a precedent by following the arguments of an environmental NGO in a nuclear-related case.

For the record, on 14 March 2001, the Cherbourg Court turned down COGEMA's attempt to prevent Greenpeace from protesting against the delivery of 360 Australian spent fuel assemblies shipped to France and prohibited the nuclear company from unloading and storing them, for absence of authorization.

It even considered that Greenpeace had the right to access a certain number of documents, in the course of the procedure, that were not yet supplied, and condemned COGEMA to pay the unprecedented fine of 100,000 French francs (around 15,000 Euros) per document per day of delay to Greenpeace France.

The Cherbourg Court's decision was canceled by the Caen Appeal Court, which, although it noticed the absence of authorization to reprocess the spent fuel, refused to give a ruling on the basis of the case.

Greenpeace submitted a new request on 12 April 2001, to examine the basis of the question. The Cherbourg Court heard its jurisdiction in the matter questioned by COGEMA. The company was supported by the Prefect of la Manche region who had authored a "déclinatoire de compétence" (denial of jurisdiction), a document submitted to the Court asking it to rule that such matters are beyond its jurisdiction.

On 25 June 2001, the Cherbourg Court issued a ruling non-suiting COGEMA and the Prefect. COGEMA was condemned to either produce the "necessary authorizations to reprocess" Australian fuels or "ship the fuel assemblies stored in France back to Australia, under threat of penalty if necessary".

On 6 July 2001, the Prefect submitted the case to the Dispute Court, asking it to declare the civil jurisdiction non-competent. His request was rejected in the first Article of the 1 July 2002 Court decision.

See also:

  1. Sensational Court Ruling, COGEMA Prohibited to Unload Australian Nuclear Fuel in France
  2. Australian fuel at La Hague: COGEMA under pressure from the courts,

Back to contents