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Decommissioning of nuclear installations

Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council on the use of financial resources earmarked for the decommissioning of nuclear installations, spent fuel and radioactive waste - 18/03/2013

In March 2013 the Commission adopted its 3rd Communication pdf (accompanied by the working document pdf ) to the European Parliament and Council comparing Member States practices with the measures proposed in the Recommendation (2006/851/Euratom) and aiming to present a comprehensive overview of the situation in the EU Member States.

Nuclear decommissioning is the final step in the lifecycle of a nuclear installation covering all activities from shutdown and removal of fissile material to environmental restoration of the site. The number of nuclear installations in the EU, such as nuclear power plants, research reactors and other nuclear fuel cycle installations, that are definitively closed and undergoing decommissioning is steadily increasing. It is a fair assumption that more than one third of the 143 reactors currently operating in the enlarged EU-27 will need to be shut down by 2025. This underlines the increasing importance of decommissioning in the years ahead, in particular as it requires a long term financial planning.

To ensure safe decommissioning of nuclear installations and the related management of waste adequate financial resources need to be transparently managed and available in time for its intended use. The current priority of the EU policy on decommissioning focuses on the management of financial resources for decommissioning. In 2006 the Commission has published a Recommendation pdf  on the management of financial resources for the decommissioning of nuclear installations, spent fuel and radioactive waste, since 2010 complemented by its Guide pdf - 102 KB [102 KB] .

In addition to setting the Policy on Decommissioning the Commission implements the Nuclear Decommissioning Assistance Programme . This programme provides financial support to Lithuania, Slovakia and Bulgaria based on their Treaties of Accession. These Treaties foresee early closure and subsequent decommissioning of Ignalina  Units 1&2 (Lithuania), Bohunice V1 Units 1&2 (Slovakia) and Kozloduy Units 1-4 (Bulgaria). As this early closure is a heavy financial burden for these countries, the European Union provides financial support. The Commission – as guardian of the Treaties – oversees whether the relevant clauses are complied with.

In the context of the next multiannual financial framework 2014-2020 the European Commission has proposed to provide further EU assistance of €500 million to support the decommissioning in Bulgaria, Lithuania and Slovakia. These funds will contribute to the continuation of safe decommissioning of the nuclear power plants Kozloduy, Ignalina and Bohunice. This new financial assistance should support the efforts of the three Member States who are ultimately responsible for nuclear safety, including the financing of decommissioning.

Since 1979, the European Commission has conducted six successive five-year Research and Development Programmes on the decommissioning of nuclear installations. The main objective of these programmes was to decommission installations in a safe, socially acceptable and economically affordable manner.