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EU struggles with clean-up costs of ageing nuclear plants

Tuesday, April 5, 2016 - 07:38

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European nations have set aside just over half of the 253 billion euros (S$389.67 billion) needed to dismantle old nuclear plants and manage waste, although the shortfall could shrink as the lifetime of some reactors is extended, EU regulators said on Monday.

[LONDON] European nations have set aside just over half of the 253 billion euros (S$389.67 billion) needed to dismantle old nuclear plants and manage waste, although the shortfall could shrink as the lifetime of some reactors is extended, EU regulators said on Monday.

Green campaigners disagreed saying the data was optimistic and the funding shortfall would get bigger not smaller unless power market prices skyrocketed.

The numbers are part of a periodic EU report on the state of the nuclear industry, which has not been updated since before the Fukushima nuclear crisis five years ago.

Reuters saw a draft of the survey in February whose official publication was delayed because of the migrant crisis, EU officials said.

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They also said the numbers were preliminary and a fuller assessment of decommissioning costs was expected by the end of the year.

So far, numbers submitted by European states show 52 per cent of the 252.9 billion euros needed for decommissioning and waste management has been set aside.

The EU officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the gap should be smaller than 48 per cent as more money can stem from interest earned from funding pots and as nuclear plants carry on earning from generation - in many cases for longer than originally intended.

The report says 129 nuclear reactors operate across half of the EU's 28 member states, providing more than a quarter of the bloc's electricity.

Their average age is close to 30 years, but many operators are seeking to extend their lifetime by 10 to 20 years, which Monday's report finds would require investment of an estimated 45 billion to 50 billion euros.

Following the Fukushima crisis, Germany announced it would shut its nuclear reactors, meaning decommissioning is a particularly urgent issue in Berlin.

German utilities, such as E.ON and RWE, could have to make additional provisions, a commission responsible for safeguarding the decommissioning funds has said.

Agora Energiewende, a thinktank that researches the implementation of Germany's shift from nuclear and fossil fuel to renewable power, said atomic generation needed state support and therefore questioned whether it made money. "I don't see any chance that that (funding) gap is closing," Agora Energiewende Executive Director Patrick Graichen said.

The Greens in the European Parliament, meanwhile, said the report bore no relationship to reality. "The paper is a bizarre mixture of illusion and propaganda," Greens co-president Rebecca Harms said.

REUTERS

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