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France's Veolia eyes decommissioning of German nuclear plants

French utility giant Veolia has voiced its interest in playing a part in the planned decommissioning of nuclear power plants in Germany. It felt the market would offer lucrative opportunities for decades.

French utility Veolia, the world's largest water treatment and decontamination company, told the WirtschaftsWoche weekly on Monday it was hoping to move into the business of dismantling nuclear power plants in Germany.

"We're in talks with possible partners," said the head of Veolia Environment's German operations, Etienne Petit. "There's a very big potential; it's a market which promises opportunities for decades."

The French firm made it clear, though, that it would not get involved in treating uranium or dismantling reactor cores. "Our strengths are in water treatment and decontamination."

Lucrative deals

Petit noted that huge sums of money are involved in the decommissioning business, given that the German government decided to phase out nuclear energy completely by 2022 after the 2011 nuclear catastrophe in Fukushima, Japan.

There has been a public debate in Germany on just who is supposed to foot the bill for the costly dismantling of disused nuclear plants.

Utilities such as RWE, E.ON, Vattenfall and EnBW have set aside a total of 37 billion euros ($50.4 billion) for decommissioning and nuclear waste storage, but that sum won't be nearly enough to cover the total costs. The government in Berlin has emphasized it sees no reason for letting taxpayers share some of the costs, as demanded by power suppliers.

hg/nz (Reuters, AFP)

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