ECJ rules on uranium export

27 September 2006

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has confirmed that non-European Union (EU) nuclear operators do not have to ask the European Commission permission to export uranium enriched within the EU, backing the line taken by the court’s advocate general.

Its decision is probably bad news for Brazilian nuclear operator Industrias Nucleares do Brasil (INB) SA, which is seeking to control it had ‘leased’ to a now bankrupt US company Nuexco Trading Corporation, of Denver.

The Brazilians were effectively arguing they had retained control of the uranium by failing to ask the European Commission whether it could be exported from the EU (it had been enriched in Germany). INB has said by not fulfilling this requirement, the uranium had legally remained under EU control, and henceforth under its ownership.

But the court has ruled that there was no need to ask permission anyway: “An undertaking having its seat outside…the member states [INB] does not pursue…[regulated] activities in those territories if it maintains with an [EU] undertaking…a commercial relationship either for the supply of raw material for the production of enriched uranium…or for the storage of that enriched uranium.” Hence, INB’s argument will probably not carry weight in German legal proceedings to secure the uranium transferred to a now insolvent company.


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