Euro 26.4bn deal for German government to store nuclear waste

Nuclear waste from private energy firms could be handed to the German government, which is close to agreeing to a €26.4bn (£22.3bn) storage deal.

The deal will remove unwanted long-term liability for the underground storage of nuclear waste from power plants.

Major utility firm RWE, however, called this figure into question, saying it was too early to announce a done deal, although the figure does follow an initial recommendation from an expert commission in April.

German newspaper Boersen-Zeitung cited sources close to the commission as saying the final agreed amount included a 35 per cent 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.

"We don't know these figures and we also think they are inaccurate. We are in constructive negotiations and they are continuing," an RWE spokeswoman said.

E.ON, the other major energy firm involved in the deal, declined to comment on the report and officials at Germany's environment ministry were also not available for comment.

Under the reported deal, utilities would pay their contributions in cash into a public-sector trust by year-end.

Utilities have been fighting for a lower payment, arguing that they have been hammered by plunging power prices, a shift towards renewable energy and Germany's decision to end nuclear power by 2022 following Japan's Fukushima disaster five years ago. A deal would also end uncertainty for investors and companies.

The outstanding decision on which disused mine will serve as indefinite storage is bound to trigger opposition from local residents and construction and moving waste will likely take decades.

While Germany is moving away from nuclear power, the UK is taking a renewed interest with plans to construct Hinkley Point, the first nuclear plant in a generation. After months of deliberation, French energy firm EDF finally agreed to fund the £18bn project in July.

However, following the decision, the UK government announced it was reconsidering the plant. 

A later report found that the UK could still meet its climate change targets without Hinkley Point. Meanwhile, a parliamentary committee report warned recently that the UK is likely to miss its 2020 renewable energy targets.

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