BERLIN May 18 Germany's economy minister has
joined Angela Merkel in rejecting talk that utilities might hand
over responsibility for decommissioning Germany's nuclear power
plants to a new public entity, as the projected costs of
"It should not be tax payers who pay for the clean-up of
atomic waste but rather those who made money for decades through
running nuclear power stations," Sigmar Gabriel told the
newspaper Bild am Sonntag in an interview published on Sunday.
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 Chancellor Angela 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 would also take on the risk of unforeseen
extra costs, effectively capping the utilities' liability.
The Environment Ministry said last week the utilities bore
full responsibility for safely decommissioning and dismantling
the nine nuclear power plants still on the grid.
One of the sources had told Reuters that if the state takes
over responsibility for the decommissioning, 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
companies E.ON, RWE and EnBW and
Sweden's Vattenfall - have set aside total provisions
of around 36 billion euros ($50 billion) for dismantling the
plants and disposing of nuclear waste.
Germany's Spiegel magazine reported on Sunday that
government experts predicted a possible shortfall of 3.5 billion
euros for the clean up, as costs had risen sharply.
(Reporting by Alexandra Hudson; Editing by Larry King)