Minister sets benchmark cost for French repository

18 January 2016

French energy minister Ségolène Royal has signed a decree setting the 'reference cost' of a national repository for the disposal of high- and intermediate-level waste at €25 billion ($27 billion). The parties involved in the project had earlier estimated the cost at between €20 billion and €39 billion.

France plans to construct the Centre Industriel de Stockage Géologique (Cigéo) repository - an underground system of disposal tunnels - in a natural layer of clay near Bure, to the east of Paris in the Meuse/Haute Marne area. The facility is to be financed by radioactive waste generators - EDF, Areva and the French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) - and managed by waste management agency Andra.

In 2005, Andra estimated the cost of the facility at between €13.5 and €16.5 billion ($14.6 and $17.9 billion). However, in 2009 it re-estimated the cost at around €36 billion ($39 billion).

In a confidential file submitted to the Ministry of Ecology in October 2014 - the contents of which were recently made public - Andra gave a revised cost estimate for Cigéo of €34.4 billion, based on 2012 prices. This estimate includes €19.8 billion for the facility's construction, €8.8 billion for operational costs over 100 years, €4.1 billion in taxes and €1.7 billion in miscellaneous expenses.

However, EDF, Areva and the CEA maintained that the cost of Cigéo will be between €20 billion and €30 billion. Meanwhile, the French Nuclear Safety Authority (Autorité De Sûreté Nucléaire, ASN) even suggested Andra had actually underestimated the cost.

The French energy minister has now ruled, in a ministerial order, that the 'reference cost' for the facility will be €25 billion, based on the economic situation as of 31 December 2011. The order also says the cost of the project will be regularly updated and at least at each key milestone in its development.

EDF noted the new €25 billion reference cost will "substitute the estimated benchmark cost of €20.8 billion on which EDF Group relied in its consolidated financial statements at the end of December 2014 and at the end of June 2015".

"Taking into account this cost will therefore result in an increase of around €800 million in the provisions for long-term radioactive waste management for future expenses relating to the deep storage project Cigéo on EDF Group's consolidated accounts at the end of 2015," the company noted. "The increase in provisions will have a negative impact of around €500 million post-tax on net income group share in 2015."

Areva said its will "integrate the impact of this revised quote in its 2015 accounts, taking a complementary provision of approximately €250 million, on the basis of the methodology used to determine the existing provision.

Andra is scheduled to submit the safety and retrievability options report for the Cigéo repository to ASN later this year. Detailed design studies are expected to take place over the next two years.

The application to regulators to construct Cigéo should be submitted in 2017, with construction itself starting in 2020. The pilot phase of disposal could start in 2025.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News