In the years to come the scale and needs of the decommissioning sector in the nuclear industry is set to become increasingly important, requiring innovative technologies, the sustained deployment of large numbers of trained workers, suitable national and international regulations, as well as adequate funding.
The operating global civil nuclear fleet has an average age of 27 years, with approximately 160 reactors more than 30 years old and a considerable fraction having reached or approaching the end of life as originally designed. While, owing to refurbishments and lifetime extensions widely pursued in recent years, it is unlikely that the totality of the units attaining their designed end of life will cease operation, decommissioning activities are clearly set to increase internationally, giving rise to a sizeable market, growing in business and competition. Meanwhile, ongoing decommissioning work will continue at a sustained rate in the numerous legacy sites – as of June 2012, 140 civilian NPPs had already ceased operation in 19 countries, of which just 19 have undergone complete decommissioning.
It is thus clear that the challenges faced by the industry in relation to decommissioning are significant, spanning technical, political, financial, social and environmental issues, and raising questions over the adequacy of the necessary expertise and infrastructure, as well as the ability to finance the costs. One factor that adds complexity is the state of knowledge on decommissioning costs, with cost estimations showing significant differences from one country to another, even between facilities of the same type.
Therefore, the Committee for Technical and Economic Studies on Nuclear Energy Development and Fuel Cycle (NDC) decided to include in its programme of work for 2013-2014 a study on the costs of decommissioning, to be developed by the Expert Group on Costs of Decommissioning (COSTSDEC). The work will be conducted in collaboration with the Radioactive Waste Management Committee (RWMC) and its standing groups (the Working Party on Decommissioning and Dismantling – WPDD and the Co-operative Program on Decommissioning – CPD), as well as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the European Commission (EC), both represented in the Expert Group.
The study will have the following principal objectives:
The main output will be a report to be completed by end 2014.
Maria Elena Urso
Last reviewed: 16 September 2014