Swiss utilities face waste hike

16 August 2013

The Swiss cabinet has proposed a raise in targets for waste and decommissioning funds that would lead to a hike of some 76% in annual utility contributions next year. A consultation is being launched this month.

The country has two central funds, one for decommissioning of the country's five nuclear power reactors, and another for disposal of all their waste. 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.

Investment trajectories to achieve this are revised every five years, with cost estimates changing relative to inflation and the growth of the funds through investment. The last recalculation in November 2011 saw estimated costs rise about 10%.

Now, a cabinet decision has asserted that there is a risk that utilities may not meet their funding commitments and proposed an additional condition that the funds should exceed estimates by 30% at the time of plant retirement. Given that all the country's reactors are at least half way through their assumed 50-year allotment, this would mean a huge rise in annual cash contributions.

Across all five reactors the sum total of annual decommissioning contributions could rise 78% to CHF100 million ($107 million) per year. Waste contributions could rise 75% to CHF207 million ($223 million) annually. Together, annual contributions to the two funds could rise by 76%.

The Beznau plant would be worst affected because its two reactors are set to reach the age of 50 soonest - in 2019 and 2021. The plant's annual payments for decommissioning could double from CHF19 million to CHF38 million ($41 million) with waste fund payments going from CHF34 million to CHF 74 million ($79 million).

The ministry said that a consultation on the changes would open this month and that the higher contributions could begin from mid-2014.

Industry reacted through the Swiss Nuclear Forum to sharply criticise the move. The trade association said there was no reason to change the existing rules and pointed out that the Nuclear Energy Act already protects the government from these liabilities, placing in law that utilities must meet all nuclear waste and decommissioning costs.
Researched and written
by World Nuclear News