Conditions laid out for Netherlands nuclear

18 February 2011

Dutch lawmakers have outlined the requirements for any new nuclear plants with the goal of approving one before 2015.


The move by the coalition government should increase clarity for the two companies planning new nuclear as well as for local people, governments and businesses.


"The government wants a sensible blend of energy. Nuclear power fits in it. Nuclear power plants help fight climate change and provide affordable and reliable power. The government believes it is a logical choice in the transition to renewable energy," said a 17-page cabinet-approved letter to the Rijkoverheid (parliament).


The Dutch schedule means new reactors would cease operation only around 2080, making this transition to renewables a fairly long-term prospect. Currently a single pressurized water reactor at Borssele provides 4% of the Netherlands' electricity.


The country's power market is liberalized and the government's role is to set a framework within which private enterprise can meet policy objectives. The letter is clear that there will be no state investment in nuclear, although the regulatory process will be streamlined and simplified where necessary to provide clarity and timeliness. This is backed up by a firm desire from the government to issue a licence as soon as possible - and at least before the end of its term in 2015.


The basic requirements are that reactor designs and safety levels must be at today's highest standards, which is translated into specifics such as the risk of a core melt of less than one in a million years. Safety even under aircraft impact is required and there should be no off-site impact from all but the most severe eventualities. Even then, evacuation times and areas should be constrained.


Nuclear licensees would be fully responsible for the costs of decommissioning and waste management and would have to present financial guarantees on this to government. The choice of whether to reprocess used nuclear fuel resides with the operator, while contributions would be made to a fund managed by Central Organisation for Radioactive Waste (Covra) for the study of final disposal of radioactive waste whatever its form.


High-level wastes are currently stored for 100 years in Covra's HABOG facility, and this would have to be expanded at nuclear operators' expense. The country expects to have a reversible geologic disposal plan based on salt or clay formations by 2014, well ahead of European requirements.


Decommissioning is to begin immediately after the end of operation, ending as soon as reasonably practical with greenfield status and no restrictions on future use. The full funds for this are to be in place before fuel is first loaded.


The letter is not entirely clear on what reactor designs are acceptable. Nothing "still in development or the experimental stage" will be permitted, said the government, linking a desire for shared operational experience to ongoing new-build and operation of Generation III reactors.


Having submitted preliminary notice to the government in mid-2009, Delta intends to apply for a full nuclear licence in early 2012 with construction following around 2015 and operation in 2019. Another application is due from Energy Resources Holding (ERH) on a similar schedule. Both are based on expanding the Borssele plant, of which Delta and ERH each own 50%.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News