World News

EU lacks 118 billion euros in nuclear decommissioning funds - draft

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Europe lacks more than 118 billion euros ($132 billion) needed to dismantle its nuclear plants and manage the waste storage management, a working paper by the European Commission seen by Reuters shows.

Assets covering only 150.1 billion euros in decommissioning costs - which includes the lengthy dismantling of stations as well as the removal and storage of radioactive parts and waste - are available, compared with 268.3 billion euros in expected costs, the paper shows.

The data is part of a broader analysis of Europe’s nuclear capacity, the so-called Nuclear Illustrative Programme of the Commission (PINC), the last of which has been published in 2007, before Japan’s Fukushima nuclear crisis five years ago.

As a result, Europe’s largest economy Germany has decided to fully abandon nuclear power by no later than 2022, relying on solar, wind as well as coal and gas-fired instead to eliminate the risk of a meltdown.

Among 16 EU member states still operating nuclear plants, only Britain’s operators have sufficient dedicated assets to cover the expected costs, 63 billion euros, according to the paper.

France, which operates Europe’s largest fleet of nuclear plants, is heavily underfunded, having earmarked assets only worth 23 billion euros, less than a third of 74.1 billion euros in expected costs.

In Germany, an additional 7.7 billion euros in funds are needed on top of the current 38 billion euros.

Decommissioning costs vary according to reactor type and size, location, the proximity and availability of disposal facilities, the intended future use of the site and the condition of the reactor at the time of decommissioning.

Although technology used for decommissioning might gradually become cheaper, the cost of final waste depositories is largely unknown and costs might spiral over time. Reactor lifespans are measured in decades, which means financing costs and provisions depend strongly on unpredictable interest rate levels.

($1 = 0.8952 euros)

Reporting by Barbara Lewis; Writing by Christoph Steitz; Editing by Tom Heneghan