Posted - 03/21/2008 : 14:10:26
Unfit for purpose
18 January 2008
A recent European report into decommissioning and waste funds in
member states has found funds in some countries are not nearly enough, and have been misused.
By Corrina Thomson
In October 2004, the European Commission (EC) made its first report to the European Parliament on nuclear decommissioning funds, on the back of concerns about the safety implications of poor funding, fund
mismanagement, and distortion of competition. The second report takes a step further in comparing European nuclear operators' and states' funding practice with that of an EC recommendation adopted in 2006.
The most obvious general finding of the second report was that there
is a vast difference in decommissioning strategy and funding across
European states, although it does not force the 'one size fits all'
stance. Sweden and Finland are singled out for praise at their good
practice and legal enforcement of the 'polluter pays' principle.
The report notes that decommissioning strategies are decided on the
basis of cost, repository availability, social consequences and other factors, and implies that work has been deferred or brought forward depending on the money available. It is the government of some countries that makes these decisions, whereas in others it is up to the operators (subject to regulators).
The longest deferral period in Europe is for England's graphite
reactors, which have a huge 130-year timescale before final site
clearance after plant closure. The UK Nuclear Decommissioning
Authority has stated it plans to reduce this to 25 years. In Italy and France, 'immediate dismantling' is being carried out over a
"relatively long timeframe", according to the report.
Insufficient funding, apart from being contrary to the 'polluter pays' principle, can turn out to be an unjustified economic advantage amounting to state aid, which distorts competition between electricity producers, it says.
The Czech Republic, Hungary, and the Netherlands have opted for a
strategy of deferred decommissioning but Slovakia and Bulgaria say
they plan to move from deferred decommissioning to immediate or, as in the case of Kozloduy 1-4, a solution falling somewhere between the two. Long-term financial security is an area that appears to require further development.
The report says all member states have set up a body to review and
assess fund management and cost estimates, but the role of these
bodies is rarely detailed and requires close monitoring.
In several states, such as Italy, UK, Slovakia, Bulgaria and
Lithuania, funding is provided by more than one system. In Germany
funds are held and managed internally by commercial operators,
although this has been criticised it has provided reasonable funds.
Shared ownership requires a specific solution to funding issues
especially where the part-owner is from another member state.
Particular attention needs to be paid to new power plant construction where ownership is shared by several countries.
There are many instances where a dedicated fund has not been created
but instead there is an assumption that treasury funds will be made
available when required. The report points out that while the
liabilities for most installations are small compared to power
reactors this is not the case for reprocessing and plutonium-handling facilities.
Since 2004, further detailed information on cost estimates has been
obtained but many operators have been reluctant to tell the EC how the figures have been calculated.
Slovenia has a well-defined fund which meets the best practice
outlined in the 2006 recommendation however, the responsibility for
the Krsko power plant is shared with Croatia with the latter yet to
establish a similar system. As a consequence, only half of the
required funding for decommissioning is currently being set aside.
The vagaries of cost-discounting have also played out across Europe
and "should be addressed" by harmonisation, according to the report. A
combination of a long deferral period and inappropriate use of
discounting rates can create long-term fund problems. Further problems
are created when there isn't proper oversight of cost estimates and
poor fund performance. Also, in several countries, it is assumed that
the state will underwrite any financial shortfall related to early
Misuse of decommissioning and waste management funds was found in
several countries. In Italy, money obtained from an electricity tariff
is placed in a state fund and the part not required for
decommissioning is used for other purposes of state interest.
In the UK, about half of today's funding for civil installations is
provided from the state budget, based on a three-year commitment. The
current shortfall in operating profits, which provides the remaining
funding, and absence of a segregated fund results in a requirement to
reorganise short-term decommissioning activities.
Belgium has drafted a new law which will see decommissioning funds
used to finance totally unrelated power investment projects in a
manner which could be seen as preferential to the project rather than
prudent fund management.
Lithuania has in some cases used its national fund to co-finance
energy sector projects to provide replacement capacity for its
reactor, which was shut down early.
In terms of information within the public domain, the funding
situation is "far from satisfactory" in many member states. Bulgaria
did not reply to the EC's questionnaire or react to specific requests
for information, and the report states that the early closure of the
Kozloduy 1-4 power reactors has led to important funding issues.
The information provided by the UK was "quite sparse", especially
compared to most states, and disproportionate to the size of its
nuclear industry. The information made available by the NDA on its
website provided some counterweight to this criticism.
Germany responded to the EC's questionnaire some time after the study
had been completed thereby removing an important element from the
comparison being undertaken in one of the targeted studies.
The report noted that the claim of "commercial sensitivity" was used
in many cases to withhold liability estimates and estimates of funds
collected. "Given the detailed information available in this domain
and the willingness of many operators to provide such information,
this argument is not considered valid," it said.
The report concluded that the benefits of harmonised decommissioning
funding methodologies should be explored. For future nuclear
constructions a common approach should be progressed but for currently operating systems the EC's activities need to be based upon independent evaluation and reporting.
Prof.Dr. D. Ciurchea
Posted - 08/21/2010 : 21:27:18
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April 28th, 2009
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In 16th century Japan, the national aristocracy, a coterie of priests and samurai warriors, decided that guns, which had been introduced a century earlier, were a threat to the established order and should not proliferate.Instead the weapon of choice would be the samurai sword, a somewhat outmoded instrument that nevertheless had an archaic panache free of the leveling implications of gunpowder. As Noel Perrin chronicled in Giving up the Gun, the priests succeeded in erasing all record of guns from artwork and historical documents so that the Samurai ruled in splendid isolation - until Admiral Perry showed up in 1853 with a few gunboats and the medieval era was over.
Today parts of America seem to want to take a similar approach to nuclear power. The Obama Administration, in conjunction with a druid-like caste of environmentalists urging everyone to #8220;go green,#8221; has decided to exile nuclear power to from the public square. It#8217;s not that the technology will be weighed against the medieval alternative of trying to run an industrial nation on windmills. Instead, we will simply pretend that nuclear doesn#8217;t exist, either here or abroad.
Nowhere was this more on display than in March when Steven Chu, the Secretary of Energy and a Nobel Prize Winner no less, announced the 20-year effort to open a repository at Yucca Mountain would be abandoned. What was revealing was not the Yucca decision - that was almost a foregone conclusion - but the simultaneous announcement that neither will we pursue nuclear reprocessing in the manner of the French and Japanese. The reason, Secretary Chu said, is because reprocessing #8220;might lead to the proliferation of nuclear weapons.#8221;
It is hard to express the fatuousness of this head-in-the-sand, know-nothing, make-the-world-disappear approach. To the proverbial visitor form Mars in 2009, it is almost comic that the United States thinks that by abjuring nuclear reprocessing in this country we are somehow saving the world from nuclear weapons. Look around you. Is North Korea plotting to steal plutonium from American nuclear reactors in order to build a bomb? Is Iran purloining enriched uranium from American facilities? Did Dr. A.G. Kahn of Pakistan run an international swat team plotting to raid French reprocessing plants?
Wake up America! We no longer control this technology. The world has moved past us. The French are now twenty years ahead in constructing a nuclear fuel cycle. The British, Canadians and Japanese have all continued reprocessing. The Russians are selling nuclear technology to South America. Even the Chinese obtained all the specs to their new Westinghouse reactors so they can reverse-engineer it and will probably be marketing their own reactors soon. A boatload of mixed oxide fuel just sailed from France to Japan, where it will be burned in a new MOX reactor. No pirates attacked.
Of course environmentalists and anti-nuclear crusaders are cheering Chu#8217;s decision. #8220;What do you do with the waste?#8221; has long been their trump card. Many states such as California passing laws saying no more reactors can be built until the waste problem is solved. For now, the administration#8217;s decision will assure we maintain our splendid isolation.
Like 19th century Japan, however, we won#8217;t be able to ignore the world forever. Areva, the French nuclear giant, has signed contracts to revive the Barnwell reprocessing facility. Areva also is taking enriched uranium from the former Soviet weapons program, #8220;blending it down#8221; to reactor level and selling it to us. Half our nuclear fuel now comes from a former Soviet weapon - a swords-into-plowshares triumph that has somehow eluded public recognition.
The truly sad thing is to see America falling behind on a technology we once pioneered. The discovery of nuclear energy was the greatest scientific achievement of the 20th century and will almost certainly come to dominate 21st century energy generation. We are now being left behind.
Tags: Nuclear Power, Nuclear Waste, Steven Chu
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6 Responses to #8220;Ignoring Nuclear#8221;
John B. Ashmun Says:
May 4th, 2009 at 11:50 am
William Tucker#8217;s #8220;Ignoring Nuclear#8221; is so good - it begs circulation! Would like to e-mail it to interested parties. Provisions for this?
Alan Gartner Says:
July 29th, 2009 at 1:21 pm
The Luddites are back in charge. However, this is temporary. The reason it is temporary is because the people who espouse this #8220;turn back the clock#8221; mentality, have not fully disclosed the impact. They have raised the banner of #8220;green jobs#8221; and green-fired growth, but the reality is that the net growth of the economy will be negative and the resulting unemployment will provide a response that is not just hostile to the greenies, but unfortunately agressively attacks anyone focused on good solid analysis of our energy needs. The last time we had this type of response was in the 50s when build it now and everywhere created cracker-box houses, tilt-up buildings, and glass skyscrapers.
Neither approach is good for us. On the one hand we build stuff that is unsustainable and ultimately costs more than it is worth. On the other hand, we halt progress that has resulted in constantly improving efficiency, reliability, and lowered costs. we need divine intervention to pull us out of this one.
Mike Harris Says:
July 31st, 2009 at 12:36 pm
Alan Gartner hit the nail on the head when he says, #8220;The Luddites are back in charge.#8221; I#8217;m in San Antonio, which is the largest (percentage wise) owner of nuclear power in Texas. About 20% of San Antonio#8217;s power comes from nuclear. It#8217;s the single best energy decision we#8217;ve made in the last 50 years. Now we have an opportunity to go into an expansion project with the city of Houston (NRG Energy) and the local #8220;green#8221; advocates are trying their level best to shut down the project before it gets started and go for wind and solar instead. Wind and solar!
If we want to be serious about CO2 emissions, nuclear is THE option. Other renewables will surely come down in price; but they#8217;re nowhere near competitive now.
Alan Gordon Says:
December 3rd, 2009 at 6:33 am
The Administration, in conjunction with its druid-like caste of leftists, do not WANT the U.S. to be an industrial nation. Hence the export of jobs to China and elsewhere. They are no more concerned with the environment (lack of nuclear power) than they are about health care (lack of tort reform).
Gary Miller Says:
December 3rd, 2009 at 8:57 am
Bottom line we need nukes. We can meet the needs of the green folks and drive the economy back to new highs but it needs to be based on low cost, no emission nuclear energy - just like all the countries with whom we are competing. The real question becomes, how do we really get this back on the table for discussion? What do we need to do to get this to the forefront of a national conversation and how do we drive that conversation to action. There are responsible answers to the waste question - but how do we get that into the public conversation so they can be an informed public?
You know there is a future to be had in nuclear energy when one of former founders of Greenpeace admits that it was a mistake to derail the efforts of the nuclear/utility industry. Let#8217;s get back to the promise of nuclear energy, you may recall that it would be #8220;too cheap to meter#8221;!
D. Ciurchea Says:
August 21st, 2010 at 12:22 pm
I am urprised by the statement that Canada is reprocessing.
As you know, CANDU reactors use natural Uranium. So, in terms of enricment, Uranium enters with 0.7% 235 end exits with 0.5% totalling a 0.2 burnup.
In standard PWR Uranium enters with 3% 235 end exits with 0.7%(like natural Uranium), i.e. a 2.3% burnup.
So, first, the burned CANDU fuel is not suited for reprocessing as PWR fuel is. There is no use for the Plutonium in spent CANDU fuel.
Secondly, the spent CANDU fuel takes ten times (10X) more space to store, a barrier in convincing people to buy CANDU.
I heard India, in the frame of its nuclear programme reprocessed all CANDU fuel for plutonium, but I don#8217;t have a primary information on this.
Prof.Dr. D. Ciurchea