Around one third of the European nuclear reactors are today over 30 years old. All European nuclear regulators and utilities are facing problems linked to this ageing of the fleet, which should be broadly understood as the physical degradation of structures, system and components (SSC) as well as the obsolescence of technologies, design, and losses in the transmission of human know-how.
Ageing directly impacts the possibilities of lifetime extension of nuclear facilities, one of the two key challenges (with nuclear waste) identified by the European Commission in its Strategic Energy Technology Plan. In this framework, the Commission proposed to add new Community safety objectives to the existing safety directive so that plant life-time extension “does not expose the workers and the public to additional risks”. The importance of ageing has also been directly acknowledged by the European Nuclear Energy Forum and more specifically by its Working Group on risks, which is drafting a proposal for a Commission recommendation on “harmonized conditions for the safe long-term operation of Nuclear Power Plants (LTO) in the European Union”. This proposal defines among others the responsibilities of license holders as well as of regulatory authorities in charge of implementing harmonised safety LTO conditions.
For their part civil society organizations have taken the topic of ageing and its impacts on safety in hand but with few possibilities of expression. According to its engagement for the application of the Aarhus convention NTW is willing to organize an open discussion with MEPs, regulators and members of the civil society, in order to increase the transparency of the reflections already taking place.