Minister opposes Germany utilities’ nuclear plan

A plan forged out by Germany’s utilities to hand over responsibility for decommissioning nuclear power plants and waste disposal to a public body has sparked a public debate in the country. Environment minister Barbara Hendricks opposes the plan.

The three operators, E.ON, RWE and EnBW, appear to want the creation of a public foundation that could act as a 'bad bank' for nuclear energy. Three years ago, following the Fukushima disaster in Japan, the German government decided that these plants would be closed down by 2022. German law obliges them to set aside about €35bn for decommissioning operations.

According to some national media reports, the utilities would drop their legal claims against the German government in return for creating the foundation. There are several cases pending on the compensation for having to shut down the plants earlier. The country’s fuel rod tax is also being challenged by the utilities.

The plan takes inspiration from the RAG Foundation, which was established in 2007 to ensure the financing of the safe, reliable and socially acceptable termination process of Germany´s subsidised hard coal mining by the end of 2018.

On Monday however, the government denied that talks on the plan were taking place. “There are no talks and no agreements on establishing such a foundation”, said Steffen Seibert, spokesman to chancellor Angela Merkel.

Barbara Hendricks, who is in charge of nuclear safety, said: “The full responsibility for the safe operation, closure, decommissioning and interim storage of nuclear waste lies with the energy companies”, the minister said.

Green group DUH also rejected the plan, saying that the cost of dismantling will by far outweigh the compensation claims made by the utilities.

However, Michael Vassiliadis, president of Germany’s energy trade union IG BCE, welcomed the idea of a public foundation.