Brussels pushes for decommissioning estimates

21 March 2013

The European Commission wants European Union (EU) member states to release more detailed information about their decommissioning programs to help it monitor their compliance with a 2011 directive.

The Commission published a detailed report for the European Parliament and Council on 8 March, assessing member states' performance regarding decommissioning of nuclear installations, used reactor fuel and radioactive waste. The Commission said information offered was "still not sufficiently detailed" and this was particularly important given a mandatory directive was now in force: "The national programs should provide a detailed cost estimate of all waste management steps up to disposal, including the associated activities, such as research and development."

The report also noted that member states were not complying with EU Euratom Treaty demands that they must notify the Commission about decommissioning funding regimes. Such notifications "did not always contain a [note on a] fully developed decommissioning funding regime incorporated in legislation," said the Commission, noting this "would require a description of the investment projects and the planned decommissioning funding regime (amount, plan for constituting the assets in the fund, modalities of fund management...)" The report did not name the countries it considered to be underperforming. The report stressed that for future Euratom notifications, "such a detailed description is expected, at least in the form of a draft law." This would enable the Commission to consult the Decommissioning Funding Group (DFG) of experts on a proposal, meeting the terms of the 2006 recommendation explicitly, which "refers to and attributes a role to the DFG" in such assessments.

Separately Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger is planning to make proposals for a wider nuclear safety directive this year. Statements from October 2012 indicated it will highlight is the need for regulation to be independent both from industry and politics, while requiring new minimum levels of compliance with 'international standards' at EU nuclear power plants.

Another weakness in EU decommissioning identified by Brussels concerned national regulators charged with overseeing decommissioning programs. "In some cases, there is room for improvement with regard to clarity on the degree of independence from the operator and on the question of who actually performs the control functions independently of the [decommissioning] fund," said the report. It stressed that the independence of regulators needed to be further investigated by DFG and other EU decommissioning studies.

Generally, however, the Commission was pleased with the progress made on decommissioning since 2006, saying that in general, the setting aside of money for this work "appears adequate." It added: "Most of the member states with commercial nuclear programs have collected substantial resources."

By Keith Nuthall
for World Nuclear News