BERLIN May 16 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)