nuclear reserves

Energy Companies Go on the Offensive

The German government wants to shut 'er down.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Reports prepared by two different teams of experts, one commissioned by German nuclear power plant operators and one by the Economy Ministry, reach different conclusions on how to manage financial reserves to cover the costs of decommissioning nuclear power plants and nuclear waste disposal.

  • Facts


    • The German government appointed a committee to find solutions for the management of nuclear reserves.
    • According to the results of a stress test submitted to the government in early October, the current reserves held by the four operators of German nuclear power plants are sufficient to cover decommissioning and waste disposal costs.
    • A report prepared by the firm Becker Büttner Held (BBH) calls into question the power plant operators’ financial preparedness in an emergency situation.
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Germany’s largest energy companies have launced a counteroffensive in the debate over nuclear reserves ahead of a commission meeting today.

The commission, appointed by the German government, is tasked with finding sustainable solutions for the decommissioning of nuclear plants and storage of nuclear waste. Energy utilities E.ON and RWE sent commission members a report, prepared by the law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, which takes an extremely critical view of the current proposals on reserves management.

The agenda of today’s committee meeting includes a presentation by the same experts who had already prepared an earlier report on the issue for the German Economy Ministry. The experts include auditors with Warth & Klein Grant Thornton. In early October, they submitted a “stress test,” which concluded that reserves of approximately €39 billion ($41.8 billion) held by the four operators of nuclear power plants are sufficient to cover the demolition of nuclear power plants and the storage of nuclear waste.

A second report for the Economy Ministry, prepared by the firm Becker Büttner Held (BBH), addresses the issue of how to ensure that the reserves are indeed available in an emergency. The BBH experts argue that the reserves should not be held by the plant operators, to ensure that they are protected against bankruptcy and transformations under company law.

They conclude that an “external fund solution is a more suitable means to achieve the objectives,” at least for a portion of the reserves. They recommend a fund, governed by public law, which would contain a portion of the reserves. The funds could be deposited “gradually or in full.”

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