EDF defends reactor decommissioning plans

02 February 2017

Utility EDF has rejected a French parliamentary committee report on the technical and financial feasibility of decommissioning its nuclear power plants. The report claims the clean-up of French reactors will take longer, be more challenging and cost more than EDF anticipates.

A fact-finding mission on the decommissioning of France's nuclear facilities yesterday submitted its report to the National Assembly's committee on sustainable development and regional development.

The report says that EDF shows "excessive optimism" in the decommissioning of its nuclear power plants. "Other countries have embarked on the dismantling of their power plants, and the feedback we have generally contradicts EDF's optimism about both the financial and technical aspects of decommissioning."

According to the report, EDF estimates the gross costs for decommissioning its entire fleet of nuclear power reactors to be €75 billion ($81 billion), of which €36 billion has been provisioned, in particular through a portfolio of dedicated assets. However, it said, "The cost of decommissioning is likely to be greater than the provisions", the technical feasibility is "not fully assured" and the dismantling work will take "presumably more time than expected".

EDF, the report says, arrived at its cost estimate by extrapolating to all sites the estimated costs for decommissioning a generic plant comprising four 900 MWe reactors, such as Dampierre. "The initial assumption according to which the dismantling of the whole fleet will be homogeneous is questioned by some specialists who argue that each reactor has a particular history with different incidents that have occurred during its history," the report says.

The report's authors - Julien Aubert and Barbara Romagnan - say there is "obvious under-provisioning" regarding "certain heavy expenses", such as taxes and insurance, remediation of contaminated soil, the reprocessing of used fuel and the social impact of decommissioning.

EDF's response

In a statement, EDF said it "assumes full responsibility for the technical and financial aspects of dismantling its nuclear plants". It noted the group is currently decommissioning nine reactors: Brennilis, Bugey 1, Chinon A1, A2 and A3, Chooz A, Creys-Malville, Saint-Laurent A1 and A2.

The company said Chooz A - a pressurized water reactor - is "the most representative of the nuclear power stations currently operating in France". Decommissioning of this unit began in 2007 and is scheduled to be completed in 2022. This decommissioning work, it said, is "continuing in accordance with the timetable and the budget".

EDF said significant decommissioning work has already been done at the other eight shut-down reactors, which are of three different design types: UNGG (Uranium Naturel Graphite Gaz), fast neutron and heavy water. "Dismantling these installations is a complex process and the work involved is consolidating EDF's expertise when it comes to decommissioning," the company said.

EDF stressed that French legislation has "created a mechanism that is both restrictive for nuclear operators and also secure". The law, it says, requires dedicated financial assets to be allocated to fund the costs of decommissioning and long-term radioactive waste management. It also requires these assets to be identified and separated from the management of the company's other assets and financial investments. These assets, EDF says, are "subject to strict and regular monitoring and checks" by both the company's board of directors and the French state.

As of the end of June 2016, EDF had set aside €22.2 billion for decommissioning and waste management, while the total value of dedicated assets was €23.3 billion. It said for its current operating fleet, "these amounts incorporate the lessons learned from the decommissioning of Chooz A".

EDF said its funds set aside for decommissioning was audited by the Ministry of the Environment, Energy and the Sea last month. The ministry, it said, concluded the audit "essentially backs up" EDF's cost estimate of dismantling its entire reactor fleet.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News