One Tax and Shorter Nuclear Power Extension? And: How Short is Moderate?

Rumors about a fairly short extension of the operating time of the German nuclear power plants combined with only one additional tax have been published by Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) and Financial Times Deutschland (FTD). Ministries also differ on how long a “moderate” extension is that would not require consent from the Federal Council (Bundesrat): 2 years and 4 months (Ministry of Justice – BMJ) or 10 years and 8 months (Ministry of the Interior – BMI).

The debate comes in view of the ongoing debate about financial contributions of nuclear power plant operators in return for an extension of the life span of the plants beyond the time prescribed by the current Atomic Energy Act (AtG).

According to SZ, the lobby work of the utilities may have been successful insofar as the government may now be planning to introduce an EUR 2.3 billion annual nuclear fuel elements tax starting not before 2011. In an interview with ZDF, one of the two major public television stations, Chancellor Angela Merkel made it clear that the nuclear fuel elements tax was intended to consolidate the budget. It was previously discussed to impose another tax intended to promote research on renewables.

FTD pointed out that the BMJ and BMI agreed in June that only a moderate extension of the operating times of the nuclear power plants was possible without the consent of the Federal Council, the legislative body that represents the sixteen Länder (Federal States) on the federal level. After the loss of the CDU/FDP majority in the recent state election in North Rhine-Westphalia the CDU, CSU and FDP coalition in Berlin no longer has a majority in the Federal Council.

According to FTD, both ministries now agreed that a moderate extension of nuclear power was an extension of “one third”. However, both ministries differed in their actual calculation, FTD says. Whereas the Ministry of Justice calculated with one third of the remaining operating time of 7 years pursuant to the current AtG, and thus came to a possible extension of 2 years and 4 months, the Ministry of the Interior calculated with one third of the maximum operating time of 32 years for an individual nuclear power plant under the AtG. Hence, the Minstry of the Interiour arrived at a possible extension of 10 years and 8 months.

The utilities were horrified by the calculations, especially the one of the Minstry of Justice, FTD writes. They insisted that an extension is possible without involving the Federal Council, the paper says. In the ZDF interview, Mrs Merkel emphasized that she wanted an extension that was in compliance with the relevant law.

This evening, Rheinische Post reported that the party executive committee of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) agreed on an second contribution of the nuclear power plant operators in addition to the planned nuclear fuel elements tax, much to the chagrin of its coalition partners, the Christian Social Democrats (CSU) and the Free Democratic Party (FDP).

Sources: Süddeutsche Zeitung, ZDF, Financial Times Deutschland, Rheinische Post

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