In October, Germany set up a high-level commission to decide how to finance the country’s nuclear phase-out. It has now recommended that power companies pay into a multi-billion euro fund managed by the government.

In October, Germany set up a high-level eleven-member commission, KFK, to review the financing of the nuclear phase-out. The government’s goal was to ensure comprehensive safety, decommissioning and waste disposal processes, and see to it that their costs would be borne by nuclear power companies, not by taxpayers.

“The tasks of interim storage of radioactive waste, manufacturing of waste containers, and construction and operation of final repositories, and transfer of waste from interim storage to final repositories should be transferred to the state,” the KFK said in a statement released Wednesday in Berlin.

The estimated costs are to be covered by power companies paying a total of 23.3 billion euro ($26.4 billion) into a state-owned fund, with partial payments to be made in tranches over the next few years. In exchange, the state will take on all the residual financial risks associated with radioactive waste management – so if disposing of radioactive waste ends up costing more than 23.3 billion euro, the government, not the companies, will be on the hook for those cost overruns.

The 23.3 billion euro is composed of the current all-in 4.7 billion euro cost estimate of processing, enclosing and transferring high-level waste to final repositories, plus a 12.4 billion euro estimate for the costs of selecting, building and operating final repositories, plus a 35 percent “risk premium” – which is less than the risk premium of at least 50 percent that environmental groups had proposed, but more than the companies want to pay.

Compromise deal

The deal was characterized by the KFK’s three co-chairs as a compromise aimed at ensuring decommissioning costs wouldn’t lead to the insolvency of the four power companies that own nuclear reactors in Germany. Their balance sheets have been under heavy pressure in recent years due to price competition from solar and wind power suppliers in wholesale electricity markets.

The four large power-generation companies that own Germany’s 17 commercial nuclear reactors are E.ON, RWE, EnBW, and Vattenfall, a company owned by the Swedish state. Eight of the 17 reactors are still in operation, but the last of them is due to be shut down by the end of 2022. Nuclear power accounted for 14 percent of Germany’s total electricity production in 2015.


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