EC puts figure on maintaining nuclear capacity

04 April 2016

Investment of between €350 billion ($399 billion) and €450 billion will be required over the next 35 years to maintain the European Union's nuclear generating capacity at between 95 and 105 GWe, according to the European Commission's latest Nuclear Illustrative Program (PINC).

The EC is mandated by the Euratom Treaty to periodically issue a new PINC to indicate targets and a program for nuclear production and the corresponding investment required. The previous PINC was published in 2007. The European Commission noted that latest PINC is the first to be presented after the March 2011 accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan.

The commission noted that since the publication of the previous PINC "the EU nuclear landscape has undergone significant changes with the organization of the comprehensive risk and safety assessments ('stress tests') of EU nuclear power reactors after the Fukushima Daiichi accident and the adoption of landmark legislation on nuclear safety, radioactive waste and used fuel management and radiation protection".

According to the EC, there are currently 129 nuclear power reactors in operation in the EU with a combined generating capacity of 120 GWe. Together they provide 27% of the bloc's electricity.

Third-party agreements

The European Commission has also today proposed an amendment to Article 103 of the Euratom Treat that would require Member States to obtain the opinion of the commission on nuclear agreements with third countries before concluding them.

Under the recommendation, Member States would be required to inform the commission of draft agreements or contracts "with a third state, an international organization or a national of the third state. The EC will then inform the Member State, within one month, if the agreement or contract does not comply with the Euratom Treaty.

"The application of this recommendation should reduce the need for the commission to object to the conclusion of agreements, and thereby reduce the risk of delay in their conclusion", the EC said.

However, the EC forecasts that there will be a decline in EU nuclear capacity up to 2025 due to ageing reactors being retired and some member states ending or reducing their reliance on nuclear energy. With new reactors starting up and lifetime extensions of existing reactors, this trend is expected to be reversed by 2030. Nuclear capacity is likely to remain between 95 and 105 GWe by 2050, when it will account for about 20% of the EU's electricity production.

Around 90% of the EU's existing reactors would be shut down by 2030 without long-term operation programs, resulting in the need to replace large amounts of capacity, the EC said. It estimates that some €45 billion to €50 billion will need to be invested in the long-term operation of existing reactors by 2050.

Maintaining a nuclear generation capacity of between 95 and 105 GWe until 2050 will also require investment of between €350 billion and €450 billion in new reactors to replace most of the existing units. The commission noted, "Since new nuclear power plants are designed to operate for at least 60 years, these new plants would generate electricity until the end of the century."

This compares with the required investment of between €3.2 trillion and €4.2 trillion in the overall EU energy supply between 2015 and 2050 in order to meet the objectives of the Energy Union strategy.

More than 50 of the EU's currently operating reactors are expected to be permanently shut down by 2025, the commission said. In December 2014, European nuclear operators estimated that €123 billion will be needed for decommissioning and €130 billion for radioactive waste management until 2050.

The PINC also looked at the front end of the fuel cycle. It notes that while major investments in conversion and enrichment capabilities have been carried out, "the focus in the coming years will be put on modernising them in order to maintain the EU technological leadership".

"Based on Member States input, the PINC provides a useful photograph of the whole lifecycle of nuclear power in Europe: from the front-end of fuel fabrication, to safety upgrades and long-term operations, to the back end of the cycle, including waste management and decommissioning," said Maroš Šefčovič, vice-president responsible for Energy Union. "The PINC contributes to the implementation of the Energy Union strategy, by looking into relevant Member States' investments from the perspective of safety, security of supply, diversification, technological and industrial leadership."

Miguel Arias Cañete, commissioner for climate action and energy, said: "Five years after the accident at Fukushima Daiichi, Europe has learnt the lessons. The Nuclear Illustrative Program brings together for the first time an overview of all investment aspects of nuclear energy in a single document. It thus contributes to the public discussion on nuclear matters. Together we should be able to identify ways to cooperate across Europe to ensure that knowledge about the safest use of nuclear power plants is shared, rather than done separately by each regulator, and that the management of radioactive waste is secured financially by Member States until its final disposal."

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News