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German banks break non-nuclear promises

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People in Rostock this weekend marked Fukushima's second anniversary. Photo: DPA
12:48 CET+01:00
Two years after the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, major German banks are funding atomic power projects despite having promised not to do so, a new study claims.

The Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper said on Tuesday that the earthquake-triggered meltdown in Fukushima prompted not only the German government's hasty change of heart about closing down all nuclear power stations, but also promises from banks to stop investing in such projects.

Germany's biggest bank, Deutsche Bank, said it was going to initially stop all loans which would be used in nuclear projects, while the Hypo-Vereinsbank (HVB) was clear when it said it would "no longer give credit to companies which do not address the issue of the environment." This included new nuclear power stations overseas.

Yet two years later, environmental group Urgewald has checked the promises made while the Fukushima plant was in meltdown. Although some banks have discontinued all business with uranium mines and nuclear power stations, others have done practically nothing, the Frankfurter Rundschau said.

The HVB and Deutsche Bank in particular were singled out for criticism. The group Urgewald checked the financing of the three most important uranium firms, Areva, BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto, which between them cover a third of the global market. Areva is also one of the leading nuclear power station constructors.

The group also asked the association of the eight biggest German banks about their protocols for granting credit.

Commerzbank and BayernLB exited nuclear business

Commerzbank and BayernLB have completely exited the nuclear power business, the result showed. "Fukushima showed that nuclear power is a high-risk technology with consequences that barely be calculated," said BayernLB in a report. "Thus the bank will not fund any new projects to construct new nuclear power stations or for the mining of nuclear fuel."

Commerzbank said it "did not finance nuclear power stations or uranium mines on principle." The Deka-bank said it had never done so.

But the other large banks had changed little, the group said.

The Landesbank Baden-Württemberg (LBBW) has funded many nuclear companies, the Frankfurter Rundschau said - and has to this day not adopted special criteria for the nuclear sector. And while Deutsche Bank said it checked each individual case for security, also had no specific nuclear criteria. The HVB said it had standards which were based on the rules of international organisations, but would not say what these were.

Four of the eight big German banks - Commerzbank, Deutsche Bank, HVB and LBBW - continued to fund energy companies, the Frankfurter Rundschau said. And although all stress that they support renewable energy, they have no idea what is done with the money they put into the energy firms, the paper said.

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Deutsche Bank and HVB invest in uranium mines

And despite the well-known catastrophic effects on public health and the environment associated with uranium mines in Africa and Eastern Europe, Urgewald said that Deutsche Bank put more than €1.1 billion into mining firms Areva and Rio Tinto between March 2011 and January 2013.

HVB put more than €944 million into Areva and BHP, the group said, although the bank would not comment on reports that its managers had given explicit guarantees worth €500 million to Areva for the expansion of the accident-hit Czech nuclear power station Temelin - just on the border with Germany.

The Local/hc

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