Funds on condition for EU decommissioning

03 January 2014

More European Union money will go to decommission nuclear reactors in Bulgaria, Slovakia and Lithuania, but the bloc's Council of Ministers has requested tighter project management.

There are two new regulations, one to support the decommissioning in Lithuania, and the other supporting programmes in Bulgaria and Slovakia. They approved larger sums than initially proposed.

Some €293 million instead of €209 million will be set aside for helping decommission units 1 to 4 of the Kozloduy nuclear power plant in Bulgaria. The projects at Bohunice 1 and 2 in Slovakia will receive €225 million, compared with an originally proposed €115 million. In Lithuania work to decommission Ignalina 1 and 2 will recieve €450 million, up from the proposed €229 million.

In total these add up to €968 million ($1.31 billion), an increase of €415 million ($564 million) on previous allocations, and go some way to bridge a €2.5 billion funding gap identified by the EU Court of Auditors in 2013.

Another change is that EU support for decommissioning in Lithuania and Slovakia will continue for an extra three years to 2020. The end date for the Bulgarian program was already set at 2020 under the initial proposal. All three new arrangments started on 1 January.

A council memorandum asserted that the EU was right to help given that the closures had been pushed through during these countries' negotiations to join the EU: "Bulgaria, Lithuania and Slovakia undertook to close and subsequently decommission the abovementioned nuclear reactors. The EU has undertaken to assist those countries in addressing the exceptional financial burden imposed by the decommissioning process," it said.

The formal proposal for the spending added that the three member states "do not have the required financial resources" to complete the decommissioning: "Taking into account that the reactors were shut down before their initially foreseen end of design lifetime and that it takes about 25 years... of operation to accumulate sufficient funds for decommissioning, it was not possible for the three countries to set aside sufficient funds."

However, the regulations also specify a number of conditions which the three countries must meet to receive the funds, including compliance with the Euratom Treaty's rules on nuclear safety; establishing a financing plan identifying full costs and envisaged funding sources required for the safe decommissioning; and the submission to the Commission of a revised detailed decommissioning plan.

These conditions were included following a performance audit conducted by the EU's financial watchdog European Court of Auditors in 2011. The proposal said that it had taken account of court recommendations, notably that full funding should not be guaranteed by the EU, that clear end-dates for EU support should be set, and that conditions for EU support were needed.

A separate report published by the European Commission in March 2013 called on the member states to release more detailed information about their decommissioning programmes.

The Commission will now set out an annual work program for each decommissioning project specifying the objectives, expected results, related performance indicators and timeline for the use of funds, followed by a progress report at the end of each year. The regulation also says that a mid-term evaluation will be conducted by December 2017, as well as a final evaluation following the end-date.

By Jonathan Dyson
for World Nuclear News