Utilities merge, Trittin compromises

30 September 1999

Germany Two German energy companies, Viag and Veba, have agreed a £25.8 billion merger which puts 12 of Germany’s 19 nuclear units under a single owner. The merger has raised concerns in Germany over job losses; within the nuclear sector these are likely to fall mainly at the management level.

According to Peter Fischer, minister for economics in Lower Saxony, job losses following the merger “would be a natural process”, as power “was an area... exposed to little competition and so there was a lot of fat on the payroll”.

The merger will make the new company the third biggest utility in Europe behind Electricité de France and ENEL of Italy, both of which are state owned.

The merger is unlikely to effect the impasse between the German government and the nuclear utilities over the government’s desire to close the country’s nuclear power stations. Environment minister and Green Party member Jürgen Trittin has offered the utilities a new deal in an attempt to agree a timetable for closure. Trittin has offered more flexibility in his approach by suggesting a life-span for all nuclear reactors rather than a specific closure date for each one.

“Firms will have more room for manoeuvre about when to shut down plants without then resulting in a greater total number of operating years or raising the amount of waste produced,” said a spokesman for Trittin.

The new deal was developed by Trittin and fellow Green Joschka Fischer during a meeting with industry heads on 17 September.

The proposal also allows nuclear waste to be kept in containers on site, thus reducing the pressure to transport waste to interim storage sites. Nuclear transports have been a flashpoint for anti-nuclear protests in the past.

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