FRANKFURT - Germany is close to an agreement with its utilities that will see the government assume the risks and liabilities of storing private-sector nuclear waste in return for a €26.4 billion ($29.6 billion) cash payment, daily Boersen-Zeitung reported on Saturday.
An initial recommendation from an expert commission in April was for Germany’s power firms, led by industry leaders E.ON and RWE, to pay a total €23.3 billion to remove unwanted long-term liability for the underground storage of nuclear waste from power plants.
Boersen-Zeitung cited sources close to the commission as saying the final agreed amount included a 35 percent top-up on financial provisioning already set aside by the companies to account for the risk of unforeseen cost inflation in storing the waste safely.
Under the deal, utilities would by year’s end pay their respective contributions in cash into a public-sector trust.
Utilities have been fighting for a lower payment, arguing that they have been hammered by plunging power prices, a shift toward renewable energy and Germany’s decision to end nuclear power by 2022 in light of the Fukushima reactor meltdowns five years ago.
But a deal would also spell an end to uncertainty for investors and companies, who can extricate themselves from a thorny issue. The outstanding decision on which disused mine will serve as indefinite storage facility is bound to trigger fierce opposition from local residents and construction and moving waste will likely take decades.
An E.on spokesman declined comment on the Boersen-Zeitung report. Officials at RWE and at Germany’s environment ministry were not immediately available for comment outside regular business hours.