Bulgaria, Slovakia, Lithuania 'Can Be Centers of Excellence for Nuclear Decommissioning'

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Bulgaria: Bulgaria, Slovakia, Lithuania 'Can Be Centers of Excellence for Nuclear Decommissioning' File photo, BGNES

Bulgaria, Slovakia and Lithuania have the chance to become centers of excellence and nuclear decommissioning experience if they manage to decommission their closed nuclear units in a timely manner and complying with the envisaged costs, a European Bank for Reconstruction Development (EBRD) official has said.

Vince Novak, Director of the Nuclear Safety Department at the EBRD, has told participants at the Central & Eastern Europe Nuclear Decommissioning and Waste Management Conference 2016 in Sofia, Bulgaria.

The conference, of which Novinite is a media partner, is being held on December 08-09.

Decommissioning offers a huge task ahead of the nuclear community and

"there is stil much room for improvement and cost efficiency in decommissioning know how,"

Mr Novak, chairing the conference panels, has noted.

The EBRD, with 65 governments and organizations listed as shareholders, is the only international financial institution with a nuclear safety mandate. Since 2001, it has included international decommissioning support funds for Bulgaria, Lithuania and Slovakia.

What brings the three countries together is the fact that all are due to decommission their plants under an agreement reached between their governments and Brussels as part of their EU accession negotiations back in the 1990s and 2000s.

Bulgaria in particular shut down four (Units 1-4) of the six units of its Kozloduy Nuclear Power Plant (NPP), the first two in 2003 and the secound couple in 2006. Decommissioning activities are to be carried through by 2030.

In the case of Lithuania, both units of the Ignalina NPP were closed at the end of 2004 and 2009 respectively. In Slovakia, EU accession has triggered the deactivation of two reactors at V1 plant of Bohunice nuclear compund which comprises two plants (V1 and V2), each having two reactor units.

The European Commission has been working closely with their governments to meet closure commitments and support the decommissioning process, also recognizing the related exceptional social and economic efforts.

EU Commission official Gianfranco Brunetti noted that Europe is yet to face the challenge of decommissioning a bugger number of its units.

"There are 129 power reactors functioning in Europe, the same number will remain by 2025. But we have at least 12 reacotrs that have been shut down. We are in the range of units - this is not enough to provide know how," says Brunetti, Head of Sector, Decommissioning from Unit ENER D2, "Nuclear energy, nuclear waste and decommissioning" at the European Commission.

Estimates he has cited from this April's EC Nuclear Illustrative Programme (PINC) show the EU Commission

puts the cost for decommissioning over the next decades at EUR 127 B,

while waste management will take some EUR 140 B (with Bulgarian having the smallest share in the latter budget portfolio). "The data is likely to increase, because the picture is not crystal clear."

"If member states are late [in delivering on decommissioning timetables], this may lead to an infringement procedure," Brunetti has warned, adding the Commission wants to send "a clear political message that member states need to move on" and the issue "should be tackled now" and not in the decades to come.

Decommissioning in the three Eastern European countries concerned in particular has already reached a stage where it has become irreversible, resulting in more costly and dangerous to seek a reopening of the plant than to build a new one.

Nuclear energy, currently taking up 28% of member states' energy mix (with 29% now coming from renewables, 25% from solid fuels, 15% from gases and 2% from petroleum), is likely to increases its share in consumption of EU countries, with the commission having a mandate to contribute to each country's decision on how to organize the mix.

An audit carried out last year has shown that EU funding dedicated so far to decommissioning

"has not created the right incentives for timely and cost-effective decommissioning,"

according to Pekka Ulander, Senior Auditor at the European Court of Auditors.

While some progress has been made over the past years, critical challeges lie ahead for all three countries, including expected delays that may raise substantially and even multiply the decommissioning cost, he has warned.

Bulgaria's funding gap in particular amounts to EUR 28 M. Ulander has noted that Bulgaria still faces challenges such as the construction of a national disposal facility for low- and intermediate-level waste.

Bulgarian speakers on the first day of the conference have included, among others, Magda Periklieva-Gueho, Chief Inspector for decommissioning and radioactive waste management at the Bulgarian Nuclear Regulatory Agency (BNRA), and Georgi Razlozhki, Deputy Executive Director at the at the Strate Enterprise for Radioactive Waste (SE RAW).

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Tags: Central & Eastern Europe Nuclear Decommissioning and Waste Management Conference 2016, nuclear, decommissioning, EU Commission, Bulgaria, Lithuania, Slovakia, Kozloduy NPP, Bohunice, Ignalina, Kozloduy, waste management, radioactive waste
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