Energy giant pulls plug on nuclear power

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Energy giant pulls plug on nuclear power
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German power giant RWE will build no more nuclear power stations - not only in Germany, where nuclear power is to be phased out by 2022 - but anywhere in the world, the company announced on Monday.


RWE "will not build any nuclear power plants abroad," a company spokeswoman said, confirming a corresponding report in the Süddeutsche Zeitung daily.

At the end of March, RWE and its bigger rival E.ON decided they would pull out of their British nuclear power joint venture, Horizon Nuclear Power, the spokeswoman pointed out.

The Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper said the management of Germany's second biggest energy company held a secret meeting in an exclusive hotel in Istanbul on Friday and Saturday to discuss the major strategy change.

Peter Terium, RWE's incoming CEO, who is to take over the company in July, told the company's 200 most senior managers that he was planning a major overhaul of the company, the paper said.

The new plan is to pull out of the nuclear power business completely, and invest heavily in solar, in Germany and elsewhere, the paper said.

The news is a significant change of course for a company previously considered one of the most vehement defenders of nuclear power. RWE made a statement in March announcing that Germany's transition from nuclear to renewable energy, announced last year, had cost it a third of its net profits.

Last week, German power suppliers also said they were suing the German government for €15 billion in lost income.

The Süddeutsche Zeitung said RWE had decided that the financial risks of building new nuclear power stations in those countries where the political will remained in favour, were too great. Huge delays in such construction projects in France and Finland have apparently convinced the company that nuclear power is not worth the financial risk.

Recent international ratings agency assessments have also threatened to downgrade nuclear power as an investment option if further nuclear safety risks are revealed, the paper said, citing unnamed company sources. This could do huge financial damage to RWE, a company currently working to pay off large debts.

Incoming CEO Terium also announced Monday that RWE could face large job cuts in the mid- to long-term. "RWE will also have to make some tough decisions," he warned, saying the company faces major restructuring. "In three years time, the company will not have the same structures we do now."

The Local/AFP/bk


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