EU raps knuckles over decommissioning failures

24 January 2013

Cost overruns, delays, lack of coordination, diffused responsibilities and poor priority setting are among a list of defects in nuclear decommissioning programs in Bulgaria, Lithuania and Slovakia identified in a resolution passed by a European Parliament committee.

The European Parliament's Budgetary Control Committee resolution expresses concern that none of the units, shut down as a condition of the countries' accession to the European Union (EU), has yet been "irreversibly shut down" despite being in receipt of EU funding for over ten years. It calls on the countries involved to establish decommissioning plans, including detailed budgets and explaining how they intend to fund the decommissioning.

The EU demanded the early closure and decommissioning of the units - four at Bulgaria's Kozloduy plant, two at Ignalina in Lithuania and two at Slovakia's Bohunice V1 plant – on the grounds that the older Soviet-era reactors could not be upgraded to acceptable Western safety standards. In return, the EU agreed to provide financial contributions to the three countries to compensate for the "exceptional social, economic and financial burden" of meeting this demand. However, how the money has been spent has been a contentious issue, with the European Parliament increasingly calling on the countries concerned to justify their continued funding.

The EU's current long-run budget (2007-2013) sets aside an estimated €2.85 billion ($3.8 billion) for the decommissioning projects, with €1.367 billion ($1.825 billion) earmarked for Ignalina, €613 million ($818 million) for Bohunice and €868 million ($1.1 billion) for Kozloduy. By the end of 2010, the European Commission had committed a total of €1.807 billion ($2.413 billion) or 63.5% of the amount available.

The EU Court of Auditors estimates that an overall funding gap of €2.5 billion ($3.3 billion) remains for the decommissioning. Even with further EU funding of over half a billion Euros, the countries will still need to find some €2 billion ($2.7 billion). The resolution states that EU financial assistance for the projects "must expire" by 2020 at the latest, and that the three states will have to take steps to find that money.

The EU-funded programs not only address the physical decommissioning of the power plants themselves but also with other consequences of the closures, such as energy impacts. The 12-page resolution expresses concern about numerous aspects of the decommissioning projects, including cost overruns, delays, lack of coordination and supervision, diffused responsibilities, too much money going to unrelated energy projects and ill-informed priority setting. The Budgetary Control Committee expressed concern that 40% of funding had gone on so-called mitigation measures, and said that such measures should no longer be funded through the decommissioning program.

The resolution notes that with around one-third of the EU's 143 currently operating reactors expected to reach the end of their working lives by 2025,  decommissioning will be "an increasingly important issue in the coming years." 

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News