Ministry for the Environment Examines Auction of Extended Operating Times of Nuclear Power Plants

The Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Protection and Nuclear Safety is currently examining the possibility to auction off an an extended operating time for the existing 17 German nuclear power plants, a number of newspapers reported. Auctions would be made to be subject to the safety of the respective plants.

Under the current Atomic Energy Act (AtG), nuclear power is gradually being phased out. The coalition government consisting of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the Christian Social Democrats (CSU) and the Free Democratic Party (FDP) that came to power in September 2009, however, considers nuclear power a bridging technology for renewable energies. It is prepared to extend nuclear power. The details of an extension have caused great debate in the past months.

Proposals range from a moderate extension of about eight years, favoured by Environmental Minister Norbert Röttgen, to a much longer extension of up to 20 years, backed by Federal Minister of Economics and Technolgy Rainer Brüderle (Free Democratic Party – FDP).

The idea of an auction, modelled on the very successful UMTS auctions held in the past, was brought up in a study by the Economic Research Insitute Rheinisch-Westfälische Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung (RWI) in March.

It is not clear whether the discussed nuclear fuel elements tax will come on top of possible auction costs.

The auction plans are not uncontroversial within the CDU, writes Financial Times Deutschland. They were immediately dismissed by the opposition and environmental organizations like Greenpeace that cited safety reasons and warned of compromising safety for additional revenue.

The nuclear power plant operators are not to be in favour of the proposal either, says Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. They expressed reservations with regard to questions of ownership, legal permits and liability. The safety of operations could no longer be guaranteed if operators of nuclear power plants were forced to generate electricity third parties had purchased in an auction, they reportedly argue. Besides, they could not be forced to shut down coal-fired power plants in return for an extension of the operating time of nuclear power plants. The latter refers to a proposal by the Prime Minister of the State of Baden-Wuerttemberg, Stefan Mappus (CDU).

It was also unclear if an auction could be restricted to the four German nuclear power operators.

Chancellor Merkel is reported to be against such an auction, as the procedure would take too long and would not solve the political nuclear energy problem. Environmental Minister Röttgen and Economics Minister Brüderle also said that auctioning will not find its way into the short term legislative process.

Sources: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Financial Times Deutschland, RWI, Rheinische Post

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