An expert panel is proposing that German energy companies should pay 23.34 billion euros ($26.38 billion) in return for being absolved of "eternal" responsibility for the storage of nuclear waste.

The plan was announced Wednesday by a panel composed of government officials, industry and campaign groups.

Under the plan, energy companies Eon, RWE, Vattenfall and EnBW must pay the money into a public fund by 2022. The companies themselves criticized the proposal as too costly.

The plan, which still needs to become law, is meant to ensure that taxpayers aren't left to cover the costs of managing nuclear waste if a company goes bankrupt.

Following the nuclear disaster in Japan five years ago, the German government agreed to shut down all of the country's fission power reactors by 2022.