23 Mar 2015 | Sören Amelang, Ruby Russell

In the media: Worries over costs of nuclear clean-up

Wall Street Journal

“Germany’s Nuclear Costs Trigger Fears”

German taxpayers may end up footing the bill for decommissioning the country’s nuclear power plants and storing radioactive waste, according to a study commissioned by the energy and economy ministry and cited by the Wall Street Journal. The German utilities operating the plants have set aside funds amounting to 37 billion euros for the project, but a nuclear expert previously at Germany’s federal office for radiation protection estimates that costs could exceed 50 billion, writes Natalia Drozdiak. Experts say lack of progress on finding sites for long-term storage of nuclear waste is pushing up the costs, and the utilities’ deteriorating financial situation is stoking fears they won’t be able to cover them, Drozdiak reports.

See the article in English here.

See the legal report from the Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy here.

See CLEW’s Dossier on the nuclear phase-out here.

 

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung/Reuters

“Gabriel wants to stress-test nuclear reserves”

Due to growing doubts of the safety of the utilities’ reserves for decommissioning nuclear power plants, economics and energy minister Sigmar Gabriel plans to check them thoroughly, according to an article in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ). “To this end, we will stress-test the operators' yearly results as a first step,” the paper quotes a letter from the minister, seen by news agency dpa. To minimise financial risks that could run into billions of euros, Gabriel is also considering setting up a public foundation or external fund to secure the utilities’ reserves, according to a Reuters report.

See the FAZ article in German here.

See the Reuters report here.

 

Süddeutsche Zeitung

“Fleeting provisions”

Germany urgently needs to secure the utilities’ reserves for the nuclear phase-out because the current legal framework is fairly weak, argues Michael Bauchmüller in a commentary for Süddeutsche Zeitung. “Today it’s still possible to change the basis of the contract without precipitating the insolvency of an operator. It might even be one of the last opportunities,” writes Bauchmüller. He argues the utilities need to use the reserves - which partly consist of core assets - to continue operating and the companies face an uncertain future because of rapid changes on the power market. But nuclear provisions will be needed for the clean-up for decades to come. “The fund for nuclear liabilities can be built up only gradually, otherwise it could push operators into ruin before they have disposed of the remains of their nuclear history.”

See a CLEW report on the big utilities' current financial woes here.

 

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

“Coal Resistance”

The debate over the closure of coal-fired plants to reduce CO2-emissions shows ecology and economics don’t fit together as smoothly as some environmentally conscious German politicians tend to suggest, writes Heike Göbel in an editorial for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Many jobs depend on cheap brown coal and there is growing resistance to Social Democrat (SPD) plans to force older plants to reduce emissions. But in the lead-up to the UN climate conference in Paris later this year, chancellor Angela Merkel of the conservative Christian Democrat Party (CDU) also wants to reinvigorate her endangered reputation as the "climate chancellor", writes Göbel.

See CLEW's news report on the government's most recent proposal for coal plants here.

 

Der Spiegel

“Coal-fired power plants emit large quantities of mercury”

German coal-fired power plants emit more than six tons of mercury per year - two-thirds of the country's total emissions of the poisonous substance, according to a Spiegel report picked up by Die Welt. Lignite plants are the worst offenders, emitting up to 17.5 micrograms per cubic metre of air, according to figures provided by the Ministry of the Environment to a Green member of parliament. This is four times the planned legal limit in the US, where tighter limits have recently been set, according to the report.

See the article in German here.

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