Germany: Utilities Must Shoulder Nuclear Phase-Out Costs

Germany’s nuclear power–producing companies will be able to shoulder the costs of the nuclear phase-out—including costs for decommissioning and the disposal of radioactive waste. That’s according to the country’s Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, as it published the results of a “stress test” on October 10. The government on July 1 reaffirmed that energy companies must bear the costs of dismantling their nuclear plants and concluded in October that reserves set aside by EON SE, RWE AG, Energie Baden-Wuerttemberg AG, Vattenfall AB, and Stadtwerke Muenchen GmbH of €38.3 billion ($41.98 billion) are within various scenarios examined during the stress test.

In the wake of the Fukushima disaster, Germany decreed the phase-out of all its nuclear capacity by December 2022. It shuttered eight reactors in the immediate aftermath of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, and this June it closed the Grafenrheinfeld plant (Figure 3). Eight reactors remain open.


3. The setting. After 33 years of operation, E.ON’s 1.3-GW Grafenrheinfeld plant in Bavaria ramped down one final time on June 27. Grafenrheinfeld is particularly well known in Germany as the setting of a famous novel, Die Wolke, about a nuclear meltdown similar to that at Chernobyl. The novel was written after the Chernobyl accident and has become standard reading in German schools. Courtesy: E.ON

The government-commissioned study, prepared by auditing company Warth & Klein Grant Thornton AG, breaks down expected costs across five different categories, from dismantling to final storage. It finds that cost estimates made by companies are higher than the international average. Dismantling costs in Germany are estimated by the companies at €857 million ($939 million) per reactor compared to between €205 million ($224 million) and €542 million ($594 million) in other countries. If nuclear plants are dismantled in “an efficient manner,” overall costs could be slashed by about €6 billion ($6.5 billion), the auditors also said.

“We do not consider the scenarios requiring the highest provisions to be likely to materialise, as they are based on the assumption of major losses being incurred by the companies over a long period of time,” Minister Sigmar Gabriel said. Gabriel noted that the Federal Cabinet will soon establish a commission to review financing for the nuclear phase-out to adopt draft legislation on extended liability for the dismantling of nuclear power plants and the disposal of nuclear waste. The results of the stress test will be made available to the commission.

Sonal Patel, associate editor

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