German commission favours limited liability for nuclear phaseout-document

BERLIN, Feb 18 (Reuters) - Germany’s nuclear operators could face only limited long-term liability for the costs of the country’s nuclear phaseout, according to a paper from a government-appointed commission seen by Reuters on Thursday.

The paper indicates that the commission took on board concerns of the four utilities - E.ON, RWE, EnBW and Vattenfall - which have earmarked nearly 40 billion euros in provisions to pay for the dismantling and storage of waste from their nuclear plants.

The last plant will be closed in 2022.

Worries over their financial health have raised fears that the companies may be unable to turn the provisions - including some illiquid assets - into liquid funds, eventually leaving taxpayers to foot some or much of the bill.

The paper said an unlimited liability would lead to excessive demands being made of the operators and that this would ultimately not be beneficial to society.

The paper said the operators may be asked to set aside additional funds on top of existing provisions for the costs of the nuclear phaseout, and that it favoured a state-controlled fund for the long-term costs.

A spokesman for E.ON said he did not want to comment before the final results of the commission are published. (Additional reporting by Tom Kaeckenhoff in Duesseldorf; Reporting by Markus Wacket; Writing by Madeline Chambers; Editing by Noah Barkin)