The German constitution, the Basic Law (Grundgesetz – GG), lays down provisions on the legislative and administrative powers of the Federation and the Länder with respect to the utilisation of nuclear energy (Article 73, paragraph 1, point 14; Articles 87c and 85), and states that the Federation has exclusive legislative power in this regard.

The Länder, as the competent licensing and supervisory authorities, implement the nuclear energy legislation on behalf of the Federation; this is known as execution by the Länder on federal commission (Bundesauftragsverwaltung). 

The Federation, for its part, is responsible for supervising legality and expediency. It may also, insofar as it considers this necessary, decide to exercise the substantive competence itself by issuing instructions to the Länder. In all cases, however, the Länder remain responsible for administrative action with external effect.

In addition, various legal principles of relevance to the nuclear sector are derived from the Basic Law. The basic rights enshrined in Germany’s constitution, in particular the duty of all state authority to protect human dignity (Article 1, paragraph 1, second sentence) and the basic right to life and physical integrity (Article 2, paragraph 2, first sentence), define the standard applicable to protective and precautionary measures at nuclear power plants. This standard is given substance at the various regulatory levels shown on the pyramid (see above).