German utilities demand financing assistance for nuclear exit

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Germany’s four biggest utilities are calling for government assistance as they prepare to decommission the country’s last eight nuclear power plants.

The big four – E.ON, RWE, EnBW and Vattenfall – have asked the federal government to establish a final site to store nuclear waste and also to set up a public trust to secure funds for the process, according to Reuters.

The government of Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed to shut down all of the country’s nuclear power plants following the Fukushima disaster in 2011 — a move that led to a boom in Germany’s solar industry as well as other renewable energy sectors.

The utilities, which have set aside nearly €40 billion to shut down the plants, are also claiming billions of euros in compensation from the government for the decommissioning, which they describe as expropriation.

Finding a safe storage site for nuclear waste remains a key issue. The government has yet to approve a final site for nuclear waste, which has led to growing uncertainty among the companies who fear they could get stuck with shuttered plants and mounting costs with nowhere to store the waste.

The utilities support a public trust, which would safeguard funds for the decommissioning process.

Rolf Martin Schmitz, chief operating officer at RWE, said the companies needed "a solution with a sense of proportion that enables the nuclear exit to take place but at the same time gives the companies the chance to develop further. From our point of view, the trust is the best model."