Ad hoc Expert Group on the Impact of Nuclear Power Plant Life Extension

Extending the lifetime of nuclear power plants is becoming common practice in OECD member countries. While applying for an extended operating licence, most operators are planning technical improvements, safety upgrades and modification of fuel characteristics and performance as well as refuelling patterns and lead times.

Nuclear power plant (NPP) lifetime extension affects operation and maintenance strategies, decommissioning schedule and strategy, radioactive waste management and disposal requirements. It also has an impact on a country's overall nuclear energy programme. When it is an alternative to ordering new nuclear units, lifetime extension raises questions in the field of education, knowledge preservation and the maintenance of highly qualified manpower. These issues are a concern for the future of nuclear energy in some OECD member countries.

These topics are of interest to policy makers in most OECD member countries, including those which have opted for a progressive phase-out of nuclear energy as well as those wishing to retain the option or to increase their reliance on nuclear energy. This ad-hoc expert group aimed to identify and analyse the technical, economic and strategic issues raised by lifetime extension in different member country contexts.

Technical issues addressed included: refurbishment requirements and timing; fuel characteristic modifications and fuel cycle delays; decommissioning and waste disposal. The economic assessment aimed to analyse the impacts of lifetime extension versus early shut-down followed (or not) by the construction of a new nuclear power plant on capital requirements, future financial liabilities and levelised electricity generation costs.

Experts provided country statements describing the status and trends in the field of nuclear power plant life management in their respective countries. Country reports were discussed and analysed by an ad hoc group of experts aiming at drawing findings from various national experience and recommendations to policy makers on best practices. The group's study was published at the end of 2006.

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Last updated: 9 March 2007