(Fixes spelling of surcharge in headline)
BERLIN, April 26 (Reuters) - German utilities should be allowed more time to pay a surcharge of some 7 billion euros ($7.9 billion) for the storage of nuclear waste from decommissioned plants, a member of the nuclear commission said on Tuesday.
"Our proposal is that the utilities pay the surcharge when they start making money again," Juergen Trittin, a co-head of the government-appointed commission, told the Frankfurter Rundschau a day before it publishes its recommendations.
Sources familiar with the plans told Reuters last week that the surcharge would be at the lower end of a range of 6-18 billion euros discussed by the commission charged with how to allot the costs of a nuclear phase-out by 2022.
Trittin said E.ON, RWE, EnBW and Vattenfall, Germany's "big four" power firms, should be allowed to pay the surcharge in instalments as long as they are committed to shouldering long-term liability costs.
The utilities have already set aside about 40 billion euros in provisions to pay for the dismantling of plants and storage of waste.
But concerns about their financial health have caused the government to look for ways to protect the money needed for storage by transferring it into a state-run fund.
Due to the risks associated with storage, members have asked for an additional surcharge in exchange for freeing utilities from long-term liability, a major concern among investors, and could ask them to transfer about 24 billion euros to the fund, the sources said. ($1 = 0.8876 euros) (Reporting by Joseph Nasr, editing by Louise Heavens)