German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet approved a draft law on Wednesday which ensures that utility companies remain liable for costs associated with the shutdown of the country’s nuclear power plants.
The legislation closes a legal loophole, preventing firms from evading decommissioning costs by spinning off their nuclear assets.
Under current laws, German energy companies are only liable for five years for units they have spun off.
“Nuclear operators are liable for nuclear decommissioning costs. This will remain the case also in future,” said Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel.
The cabinet also named three chairmen for a high-level commission that is to present proposals for the long-term handling of finances related to the nuclear reactors’ afterlife by the end of next January.
They are former environment minister Juergen Trittin of the Green Party, the former prime minister of the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Matthias Platzeck, of the Social Democrats (SPD), and the former mayor of Hamburg, Ole von Beust of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU).
The move on liabilities was a response to plans announced last year by Germany’s biggest utility E.ON to spin off its nuclear power plants. The company has since bowed to political pressure and abandoned that plan.
Additional concerns that utilities need to raise additional funding to pay for the dismantling of reactors as well as the storage of nuclear waste were mostly removed at the weekend by the presentation of a government review that concluded there was enough money set aside.
Shares in leading nuclear operators E.ON and RWE surged the most in seven years on Monday on the results of the study as markets were relieved the struggling companies would not be burdened by more financial requirements.
The commission, which will in total consist of 19 representatives of political parties, industry, unions and other relevant groups of society, will also deal with the question of how to dispose of nuclear waste in a final repository.