Provisional contributions to Swiss clean-up funds announced

15 December 2016

Swiss nuclear power plant operators face lower or even no contributions to the country's decommissioning and waste disposal funds over the period 2017-2021, primarily due to the delay of some ten years in commissioning a deep geological repository.

Switzerland has two central funds, one for decommissioning of the country's five nuclear power reactors, and another for disposal of all their wastes. It charges operators set fees each year to make sure there is enough money for those tasks after a 50-year lifespan - an arbitrary time period selected by the cabinet in May 2011.

Once every five years, the predicted costs of decommissioning and waste disposal are reviewed. The contributions to be paid into the fund each year by the plant operators are determined on the basis of these cost calculations and of a financial-mathematical model. The Administrative Commission of the Decommissioning Waste Disposal Fund (STENFO) is the managing body of the funds and takes all the important decisions. The latest review was in 2011.

The Swiss Federal Energy Office announced today that the national nuclear trade organization swissnuclear has submitted the latest cost study for decommissioning and waste disposal to STENFO.

Based on the latest cost study, the STENFO Administrative Commission has set the provisional contributions of the operators to the two funds for the assessment period 2017-2021.

Axpo said its provisional contributions set for the 2017-2021 period for the Beznau plant are "significantly lower" than in the previous assessment period. It said the latest cost study puts the total cost for decommissioning and waste disposal at the two-unit plant at CHF5.62 billion ($5.45 billion), up 6.4% from the previous study. However, the company said it will not have to make an annual contribution over the 2017-2021 period "due to the fact that the geological deep repositories are to be put into operation at a later stage and also because of the good fund performance of the past years". It said today it has paid CHF91.2 million per year for the Beznau plant.

BKW - operator of the Mühleberg plant - said the latest cost study puts the estimated costs of decommissioning and waste disposal at the plant at CHF3.06 billion, some 9.4% higher than the 2011 cost study. It said the increase is primarily due to "careful project planning and the higher risk allowances, plus changes and delays in the planning of the deep geological repository for radioactive waste disposal".

However, BKW noted that since financing for the decommissioning of Mühleberg has already been secured in full, the company will not need to contribute to the decommissioning fund from 2017 onwards. However, it will continue to contribute about CHF18 million annually to the waste disposal fund.

Kernkraftwerk Gösgen said its provisional annual contributions to the decommissioning and disposal funds for the Gösgen plant are CHF9.6 million and CHF11.0 million, respectively. It too noted that these annual contributions are lower partially as a consequence of the delayed commissioning of a repository. The funds, it said, will therefore accumulate more interest over the delay of some ten years.

The provisional annual contributions to be paid by Kernkraftwerk Leibstadt have been set at CHF9 million for the decommissioning fund and CHF22 million for the waste fund. The utility noted that it has previously been paying CHF63.7 million into the funds. According to the latest cost study, some CHF7.22 billion will be required for decommissioning and waste disposal at the Leibstadt plant.

The scientific and technical aspects of the 2016 cost study will now be examined by the Swiss Federal Nuclear Safety Inspectorate. It is expected to give its opinion on the cost study by the end of 2017. A panel of independent cost experts will also review the cost study on behalf of STENFO. During 2018, the country's Department of the Environment, Transport, Energy and Communication will fix the amount of decommissioning and disposal costs at the request of the Administrative Commission.

The next cost estimation will be made in 2021 for setting contributions in the 2022-2026 period.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News