* Utilities to pay 23.6 bln euros into fund for waste
* Agreement removes liability for nuclear waste
* Law expected to come into force in early 2017
(Adds details, comments)
BERLIN, Oct 19 The German cabinet approved a
draft law on Wednesday for top utilities to start paying into a
23.6-billion-euro ($25.9 billion) fund next year in return for
shifting liability for nuclear waste storage to the government.
The agreement removes uncertainty about the costs of storing
waste and gives investors greater clarity over the future
finances of utilities E.ON, RWE, EnBW
The utilities will remain responsible for dismantling
Germany's nuclear plants, the last of which will be shut down in
2022 as part of country's abandonment of nuclear power, a
decision triggered by Japan's Fukushima disaster five years ago.
E.ON and RWE welcomed the cabinet's decision.
"With this the company sees a chance to bring to an end a
controversial topic that has been discussed for decades," E.ON
said in a statement.
RWE and Vattenfall urged the government to finalise a
contract with the utilities to ensure long-term legal certainty.
Shares in E.ON and RWE were little changed on Wednesday,
having rallied sharply on Friday when final details of the draft
law were first reported by Reuters.
With a combined liability of some 16.7 billion euros, E.ON
and RWE will be responsible for raising most of the funds. E.ON
has said it might carry out a share sale to raise about 2
Environment group BUND criticised the deal, saying the
taxpayer must now bear "enormous financial risks" in case the
costs of storage rise.
Under the deal, companies can transfer the funds in one lump
sum on Jan. 1, 2017, or in several instalments over the next
If utilities opt to pay in stages, their first payment must
be at least a fifth of the total. They will have to pay interest
of 4.58 percent per year on the remaining amount, providing an
incentive to pay as much as possible up front.
Utilities that decide to pay in instalments will also have
to provide collateral for what they still owe, which could be
done via a bank guarantee, according to details of the draft
Vattenfall said some questions still needed to be answered
on removing the operators' liability once payment into the fund
has been made.
The draft law must be debated by the lower and upper houses
of parliament and is expected to come into force at the start of
($1 = 0.9103 euros)
(Reporting by Markus Wacket and Caroline Copley; Additional
reporting by Tom Kaeckenhoff in Duesseldorf and Vera Eckert in
Frankfurt; Editing by Joseph Nasr and Jason Neely)