As it turns out, closing an entire energy industry is neither a cheap nor an easy undertaking. German energy companies are still working on closing nuclear power plants as the country moves away from the energy source, but according to a recent report, they are some $34 billion short of the funds necessary to construct a safe disposal site for their residual nuclear waste. Those same companies have already put aside $44 billion to dismantle the physical plants, but that still leaves the waste problem. Reuters explains:
Spiegel Online reported that the provisional findings of an auditing company appointed by the Economy Ministry were that the energy companies were as much as 30 billion euros adrift of the money they need to set aside. […]
The auditors have been subjecting the balance sheets of Germany’s four nuclear power plant operators to a stress test to ensure their provisions are adequate.
Responding to the Spiegel report, an RWE spokesman said: “It is our understanding that there is not a final report from the expert survey. We expect that our provisions are right and appropriate. We also expect that the stress test will confirm this.”
It’s worth remembering that Germany’s nuclear exit was by choice, a knee-jerk decision made in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima disaster. Merkel had set a target for a full abandonment of the sector by 2022, despite the fact that Germany shares few, if any, of the threats of natural disaster that affect Japan’s nuclear industry.
But Germany has charged ahead with its nuclear phase-out, even having the gall to include it under the banner of its much-touted “green” energiewende, though we fail to see how cutting out one of the few sources of zero-carbon baseload power can be interpreted as eco-friendly. Not only has that decision forced Germany to burn record amounts of coal to replace closed nuclear plants, it’s also leaving behind a monstrous bill. German consumers already pay among the highest electricity prices in Europe.
Merkel’s government envisions itself as a global green paragon, and imagines its energiewende as a shining example for the rest of the world. To that end, it has accomplished at least one of its goals: the rest of the world’s policymakers can look to Germany as a cautionary tale of what happens when green idealism clouds rational decision-making.