German govt clashes with Bavaria over nuclear storage site plan

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 19, 2015 11:04 AM

By Markus Wacket and Michael Nienaber

BERLIN (Reuters) - The German government presented a plan on Friday for four interim storage sites to host nuclear waste now piled up at plants in France and Britain, but the move drew criticism from Bavaria, which wants none of the material.

After Japan's Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011, Germany decided to shut all of its nuclear plants by 2022, but still has to work out how to handle tonnes of highly radioactive waste.

Original plans to turn an interim nuclear waste storage site in salt formations in Lower Saxony's Gorleben into a final repository were scuppered by mass protests and the location has finally been excluded by law.

The latest plan presented by Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks envisages interim storage sites at nuclear plants in Brokdorf (Schleswig-Holstein), Philippsburg (Baden-Wuerttemberg), Biblis (Hesse) and Isar (Bavaria).

These four sites are expected to take 26 containers of German nuclear waste that is being reprocessed and stored in France's La Hague and England's Sellafield.

But the announcement sparked indignation from Bavaria, with state chancellery minister Marcel Huber calling the government's unilateral decision "politically unwise and brazen".

Bavaria is already at odds with Berlin over plans to build high-voltage power lines to transfer wind energy from the north to the south, after Bavarian Premier Horst Seehofer revoked his support for the grid expansion.

Hendricks hit back by saying Bavaria had produced large amounts of nuclear waste in the past and therefore could not shirk its responsibility by opposing interim storage sites.

In a joint statement, the country's four leading utilities RWE, E.ON, EnBW and Vattenfall [VATN.UL] welcomed the proposal by the environment ministry.

Moreover, the companies said they were willing to scrap several lawsuits against the government and several states if a lasting agreement, including cost distribution, could be found.

In those lawsuits, the utilities rejected a 2014 law that bans transporting reprocessed nuclear waste to a central storage site at Gorleben and stipulated it be stored at sites near nuclear reactors instead.

The utilities say the transport ban is politically motivated and on-site storage incurs additional costs they should not have to bear.

(Additional reporting by Vera Eckert and Thorsten Severin; Editing by Caroline Copley and Dale Hudson)