German Utilities Companies Urged to Pool Cash For Nuclear Clean-Up

In Germany, the costs of dismantling their nuclear plants has become a major issue for the country’s energy firms, with markets eagerly awaiting commission proposals due by the end of the month.

The chairman of a government-appointed commission said that Germany’s ailing utilities should transfer cash into a fund in order to pay for the country’s exit strategy away from nuclear energy — unless they are willing to give up some of their assets.

Germany’s “big four” utilities (E.ON, RWE, EnBW, and Vattenfall) have set aside 40 billion euros (about $45 billion) in provisions in order to fund the dismantling and storage of waste from their nuclear plants. The last of these will be closed in 2022.

The costs of nuclear energy are one reason to start moving away from it. More than 1,500 industrial facilities use large quantities of water to cool their plants, which has been criticized as a wasteful and cost-ineffective.

Concerns over the financial health of the power firms have sparked fears that the “big five” won’t be able to turn the provisions pooled for the shift away from nuclear energy into liquidity. In which case, taxpayers would be left to pick up the bill for the conversion.

A “nuclear commission” has been tasked with finding a solution for how these provisions could be protected — likely, by setting up a government-controlled fund while also keeping utilities in a viable state.

Utilities are betting on renewable energies and grids for future growth, especially considering an accelerating demise of their coal, gas and nuclear plants. These are being shut down or pushed out of the market by solar and wind parks.

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