November 29, 2015 / 2:48 PM / 4 years ago

Minister signals German trust could handle nuclear waste storage

FRANKFURT, Nov 29 (Reuters) - Germany could share responsibility for phasing out nuclear power with energy firms by setting up a publicly managed trust, the environment minister said on Sunday.

Barbara Hendricks’ comments to Deutschlandfunk radio follow calls by Germany’s top energy firms utilities on Berlin to help handle the country’s nuclear exit and set up a trust for decommissioning plants and the storage of radioactive waste.

A government-appointed commission is tasked with recommending by early 2016 how to safeguard the funding of fulfilling the exit.

The use of a public trust is one option under discussion and closely eyed by investors, as utilities would then have to transfer certain assets, most likely cash and minority stakes.

Chancellor Angela Merkel accelerated the shift away from nuclear power and fossil fuels towards renewable sources of energy such as wind, hydro, solar and biomass power after Japan’s Fukushima disaster in 2011.

Germany’s “big four” utilities - E.ON, RWE , EnBW and Vattenfall - have already set aside nearly 40 billion euros ($42 billion) to fund the decommissioning and waste disposal but say they cannot handle the problem on their own.

Hendricks said half of provisions could remain with the utilities to pay for the dismantling of the nuclear power plants.

“And yes, if the other half was put into a publicly managed fund, so that the finances were available for finding and establishing sites for storage, then that would be progress. I would agree to that.” ($1 = 0.9444 euros) (Reporting By John O’Donnell and Christoph Steitz)

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