Practice Relating to Rule 42. Works and Installations Containing Dangerous Forces
Section A. Attacks against works and installations containing dangerous forces and against military objectives located in their vicinity
Germany’s Military Manual (1992) states:
464. Works and installations containing dangerous forces, namely dams, dykes, and nuclear electrical generating stations, shall not be made the object of attack, even where these objects are military objectives, if such attack may cause the release of dangerous forces and consequent severe losses among the civilian population.
465. This protection shall cease if these works are used in regular, significant and direct support of military operations and such attack shall be the only feasible way to terminate such use. This shall also apply to other military objectives located at or in the vicinity of these works and installations.
466. Regular, significant and direct support of military operations comprises, for instance, the manufacture of weapons, ammunition and defence materiel. The mere possibility of use by armed forces is not subject to these provisions.
467. The decision to launch an attack shall be taken on the basis of all information available at the time of action.
469. The parties to the conflict shall remain obliged to take all precautions to protect dangerous works from the effects of attack (e.g. shutting down nuclear electrical generating stations).
The manual further provides that grave breaches of IHL are in particular “launching an attack against works or installations containing dangerous forces (dams, dykes and nuclear electrical generating stations), expecting that such attack will cause excessive loss of life, injury to civilians or damage to civilian objects”.
Germany’s Soldiers’ Manual (2006) states: “Works and installations containing dangerous forces (dams, dykes, nuclear electrical generating stations) may, as a matter of principle, not be attacked.”
Germany’s Law Introducing the International Crimes Code (2002) provides for the punishment of anyone who, “in connection with an international armed conflict or with an armed conflict not of an international character, … directs an attack by military means against … works and installations containing dangerous forces”.
In 1981, in reply to a question in Parliament on the legal status of nuclear power plants, the German Government stated that these plants were only used for peaceful purposes in Germany and therefore enjoyed the status of civilian objects and were protected as such. The government stated that this protection was underlined in Article 56 of the 1977 Additional Protocol I.
The Report on the Practice of Germany states:
Official correspondence among the responsible ministries reveals that nuclear power plants are seen to be protected under customary international law, insofar as:
–nuclear power plants are civilian objects
–no party to an armed conflict has an unlimited right in its choice of means of warfare
–every attack has to be seen in the light of the proportionality principle and this principle also has to be applied in cases where the nuclear power plant is used for military purposes.