October 9, 2015 / 3:22 PM / 4 years ago

UPDATE 1-Germany expands nuclear stress tests to further scenarios

* Worst case scenario shows firms short of as much as 30 bln euros

* Last of Germany’s atomic reactors due to shut down in 2022 (Adds details)

By Markus Wacket

BERLIN, Oct 9 (Reuters) - Nuclear stress tests assessing operators’ ability to provide enough funding to decommission the country’s reactors and dispose of final waste have been expanded to further scenarios, a source familiar with the tests told Reuters on Friday.

The move comes after shares in the country’s big four nuclear operators E.ON, RWE, EnBW and Vattenfall tumbled last month on reports that the funding gap may amount to 30 billion euros ($34 billion).

In the tests, being conducted by auditing firm Warth & Klein Grant Thornton, the worst case scenario still showed that energy companies were short of as much as 30 billion euros, said the source.

“This result assuming extremely low interest rates still exists,” the source said.

A further scenario showed that there was more money set aside than needed. The rules applied are similar to those used in other European countries with nuclear industries, namely France and Sweden.

The Economy Ministry declined to comment.

The last of Germany’s atomic reactors is due to be shut down in 2022 under an accelerated exit schedule set up by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government after the Fukushima disaster in Japan in 2011.

Operators have set aside 39 billion euros for decommissioning and waste disposal, a sum which utilities say accountants and auditors regularly monitor for adequacy and compliance with tax and regulatory stipulations for operators.

The auditors, appointed by the Economy Ministry, have been subjecting the balance sheets of Germany’s four nuclear power plant operators to a stress test to ensure their provisions are adequate.

Faced with low energy prices, rising competition from renewables and uncertainty ahead of the nuclear exit, German utilities have shed more than 20 billion euros in market value this year.

The government wants to make sure enough money is set aside to ensure that the taxpayer does not end up footing the bill if one of the companies runs into financial difficulties.

E.ON has said it may be forced to cut more staff if uncertainty over the nuclear liability causes downgrades by rating agencies.

Analysts at Bernstein said on Friday Germany’s nuclear storage costs compare well internationally.

Separately, the big four are seeking more than 24 billion euros in various lawsuits related to Germany’s nuclear policy. These may become part of barter material in a debate over who pays what for waste storage and what other decisions are taken. [IDn:L6N0VD1VD] ($1 = 0.8812 euros) (Reporting by Markus Wacket; Writing by Vera Eckert and Caroline Copley; editing by Adrian Croft)

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