EU nuclear decommissioning assistance programmes are over-budget and behind schedule

A September 2016 report from the European Court of Auditors hilglights that Eight reactors across sites in three countries – Lithuania, Bulgaria and Slovakia –are years behind schedule in decommissioning and still require billions in funding. The decommissioning of these eight Soviet-designed nuclear reactors in Lithuania, Bulgaria and Slovakia was a condition for the countries’ EU accession.

This special report No 22/2016 is called “EU nuclear decommissioning assistance programmes in Lithuania, Bulgaria and Slovakia: some progress made since 2011, but critical challenges ahead”: http://www.eca.europa.eu/en/Pages/DocItem.aspx?did=37685.

The European court of auditors found that the EU funding programmes set up to assist with meeting this requirement have not created the right incentives for timely and cost-effective decommissioning. While some progress has been made, key infrastructure projects have experienced delays, and the critical challenges involved in working in the controlled areas still lie ahead.

The EU auditors said the reactor buildings at Bulgaria’s Kozloduy, Lithuania’s Ignalina and Slovakia’s Bohunice had yet to be dismantled and no solution had been found for the disposal of spent nuclear fuel.

Decommissioning costs vary according to the type and size of reactor, its location, the availability of disposal facilities and the condition of the reactor. The cost of final spent fuel depositories is also still largely unknown.

By 2020, EU support should have reached 3.8 billion euro. According to the European auditors, the estimated total cost of decommissioning will be at least 5.7 billion euro. That figure doubles if the cost of disposing spent fuel once and for all is included.

Other EU Member States face the same challenges. The report shines a spotlight on the challenges facing Germany and other nations within the bloc that are planning to retire their nuclear reactors.

According to EU Commission data, only three out of the 91 reactors shutdown in Europe have been fully dismantled. The only repository for spent fuel being dug deep underground in Europe has been under construction in Finland for nearly 40 years and won’t be ready until after 2020.

A working paper by the European Commission, seen by Reuters in February, showed that Europe was short of more than 118 billion euros needed to dismantle its nuclear plants and waste storage management[1].

[1] http://www.reuters.com/article/us-europe-nuclear-idUSKCN0VP1S6