Cabinet approves German nuclear phase-out funding bill

20 October 2016

The German cabinet yesterday adopted a draft bill on financing the decommissioning of the country's nuclear power plants and management of its radioactive waste. The bill is based on the recommendation of an independent commission reviewing the financing of Germany's nuclear phase-out.

Following the Fukushima accident in March 2011, the government of German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced the withdrawal of the operating licences of eight German nuclear power plants and revived plans to phase out nuclear power by 2022.

An independent commission - the Kommission zur Überprüfung des Kernenergieausstiegs (KFK) - was set up in October 2015 by the German government. Its mandate is to develop recommendations for action, such as ensuring the financing of the decommissioning of the country's reactors and the disposal of radioactive waste can be secured so that the utilities involved are financially able in the long term to fulfil their obligations in the nuclear area.

The commission presented its recommendations to the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy on 27 April. The ministry has since examined the KFK's recommendations and consulted with other government departments on actions that should be taken to implement them.

The German cabinet has now adopted a draft bill based on the KFK's recommendations.

Under the draft bill, the reactor owners involved - EnBW, EOn, RWE and Vattenfall - will pay some €23.6 billion ($25.9 billion) into a state-owned fund for decommissioning of the plants and managing radioactive waste. The amount includes a 35.5% risk premium which exempts them from having to make any additional contributions to the fund.

The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy said the aim is for the bill to enter into force on 31 December.

Energy minister Sigmar Gabriel said the legislation "clarifies responsibility for nuclear waste. It ensures the long-term financing for decommissioning, dismantling and disposal without the transfer of costs to society or jeopardizing the economic situation of operators."

Utility responses

EOn said it welcomed the cabinet's decision to implement the recommendations of the KFK, adding that it "sees the possibility of finding a social consensus that will put an end to a highly controversial discussion which has been ongoing for decades".

"EOn is prepared to make a significant contribution to make this consensus happen. The implementation will coincide with a release from liability for interim and final storage of nuclear waste," the company said.

"In the interest of lasting legal certainty for all sides involved, EOn deems it necessary to not only have a rapid legislative process but also to swiftly achieve a direct agreement between the federal government and the operators," it said. "The company will thoroughly examine the bill and continue to work constructively with the relevant public authorities to find a joint and final solution."

According to Reuters, RWE and EOn will pay a combined €16.7 billion into the fund. Vattenfall, which also welcomed the German government's approval of the bill, said its share is €1.75 billion.

Stefan Dohler, head of business area markets at Vattenfall, said: "We will now carefully analyse the law from a technical, commercial and legal perspective. What we need is a long-term secure solution to this very important issue. Therefore we need to anchor the legal provisions in contractual agreements with the government to avoid subsequent changes. We need to secure that the agreement will be long lasting and stable."

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News