Merkel says state won't take over nuclear decommissioning risks

BERLIN Fri May 16, 2014 3:30am EDT

BERLIN May 16 (Reuters) - Chancellor Angela Merkel has rejected talk that utilities could hand over responsibility for decommissioning Germany's nuclear power plants to a new public foundation where taxpayers would assume liability, in a newspaper interview published on Friday.

"I am against shifting risks onto the state and taxpayers," she told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

Two sources told Reuters last weekend that utilities were in talks with the government about setting up a 'bad bank' for nuclear plants in response to Merkel's decision to close them all by 2022 after the Fukushima disaster.

The foundation would use provisions earmarked by the nuclear plant operators, but also take on the risk of unforeseen extra costs, effectively capping the utilities' liability.

"In principle, it must remain the case that companies bear the responsibility for the disposal of nuclear waste. Provisions are built up for that," Merkel said, adding that her government "will not take part in a one-sided transfer of the risks".

The Environment Ministry said earlier in the week it was the full responsibility of the utilities to safely decommission and dismantle the nine nuclear power plants still on the grid.

One of the sources had told Reuters that, if responsibility for the decommissioning was taken over by the state, the utilities might be willing to drop their legal claims against the government for compensation for having to shut the plants.

The four operators of nuclear plants in Germany - the German firms E.ON, RWE and EnBW, and Sweden's Vattenfall - have set aside total provisions of around 36 billion euros ($50 billion) for the dismantling of the plants and the disposal of nuclear waste. (Reporting by Stephen Brown; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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