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At IAEA Meeting, Nuclear Power Newcomer and Operating Member States Discuss Funding for Waste Management and Decommissioning

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Turbine hall of the Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant before and during the dismantling process, 2016. (Photo: Ignalina NPP, Lithuania)

One of the key requirements for sustainability of nuclear power programmes is timely and effective management of spent fuel and radioactive waste that results from nuclear power plants’ operation and decommissioning. Both estimation and funding of related liabilities are subject to uncertainties and require a regular management during the very long timeframes involved. These issues, from funding schemes to technical risk management associated with the waste management and the decommissioning of nuclear facilities, were discussed at a recent IAEA technical meeting.

Coming from 21 nuclear power operating and embarking countries, 34 experts attended the IAEA’s first Technical Meeting on Funding for Waste Management and Decommissioning, which took place in Vienna from 9 to 12 July 2018.

Participants shared their perspectives on ways of addressing costing and funding issues related to waste management and decommissioning, and provided country-specific examples and case studies.

“To ensure that the governments, regulatory bodies and owner/operators establish adequate and reliable policies and funding schemes, the IAEA recommends the elaboration of robust plans at early stages for making the funds available when time comes to decommission or to manage waste,” said Dohee Hahn, Director of the IAEA’s Division of Nuclear Power, in his address to participants.

Meeting chairperson Chantal Spinoy, from Engie Electrabel, Belgium, noted the importance of stakeholder involvement in the process: “Involving relevant stakeholders with shared responsibilities is crucial when making long term decisions related to financial liabilities to make sure funds will be sufficiently available to cover future costs of decommissioning and final disposal of radioactive waste,” she said. “This is challenging due to significant uncertainties related to costs in the coming decades.”

The meeting discussions focused on three major areas: (1) basic principles of funding schemes and identifying sources of risk and risk mitigation approaches; (2) cost estimation, including for waste emerging from the spent fuel and for decommissioning of nuclear facilities; and (3) dealing with risks and uncertainties in the spent fuel and radioactive waste management.

Estimating the costs attached to projects and activities related to decommissioning of the nuclear station and disposal of spent fuel as well as identifying their drivers and exploring ways to fund them, were major topics explored by Member States. Representatives of countries with operating nuclear power plants and with direct experience in developing and implementing policies to funding waste management and decommissioning presented their perspectives, challenges and lessons learned through case studies.

As far as funding schemes are concerned, the meeting allowed sharing best practices by experienced countries on their approaches to risk mitigation in developing a plan for funding such long term projects.

“The meeting has clearly laid out the importance of basing funding schemes on the ‘polluter pays’ principle,” said Richard Ström of the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority. “In this regard, Sweden emphasizes the risk mitigating factors of establishing a separate fund to cover expected costs, continuously recalculating the fees and implementing guarantees for fees that have not yet been paid as well as to account for unexpected cost overruns.”

In addition, the meeting provided a platform for nuclear newcomers to learn from experiences of established nuclear countries on decommissioning policies and strategies, as they form the basis for cost estimating approaches, management of provisions and funds for the decommissioning.

With Ghana being in the first phase of its nuclear power project and currently putting together a comprehensive report, Festus Brew Quansah, Financial Analyst at the Nuclear Energy Planning Centre of the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission, said attending the meeting was timely and important.

“Country experiences shared were very insightful and will help Ghana’s Nuclear Power Programme Implementing Organization (NEPIO) contextualize a programme for funding waste management and future decommissioning,” he said.

“Especially, up-to-date information on the need for clear policy direction, appropriate funding schemes, a strong institutional framework to execute the programme and a clear regulatory mechanism to ensure adequacy of funds for the programme were very important for us,” he added. “I can go back to Ghana with new ideas to share with my team and government.”

Involving relevant stakeholders with shared responsibilities is crucial when making long term decisions related to financial liabilities to make sure funds will be sufficiently available to cover future costs of decommissioning and final disposal of radioactive waste.
Chantal Spinoy, Engie Electrabel, Belgium

Meeting participants at IAEA headquarters in Vienna, 9 July 2018. (Photo: IAEA)

Last update: 20 Jul 2018

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