The decommissioning of a nuclear installation such as a power plant or research reactor is the final step in its lifecycle. It involves all activities from shutdown and removal of nuclear material to the environmental restoration of the site. The whole process can extend over a period of up to 30 years.
By 2025, it is estimated that over a third of the EU's currently operational reactors will be at the end of their lifecycle and in need of shutdown.
Recommendations on decommissioning funds
The European Commission helps address the funding of nuclear decommissioning through a group of experts known as the Decommissioning Funding Group (DFG). These experts:
- provide up-to-date knowledge on decommissioning costs and the management of funding
- explore ways to further co-operation and harmonisation of nuclear decommissioning at European level
Nuclear decommissioning assistance programmes
Following the Chernobyl disaster in 1986, the EU decided that so-called High Power Channel Type Reactors (RBMK) and first-generation Soviet designed nuclear reactors would need to be shut down. At the time of the accession to the EU, Bulgaria, Lithuania and Slovakia agreed to shut down reactors at the sites of Kozloduy, Ignalina and Bohunice respectively.
The EU launched the nuclear decommissioning assistance programmes (NDAP) to help them. The programmes provide financial assistance for:
- decommissioning and dismantling projects, waste management projects such as the design and construction of radioactive waste treatment plants, landfills for very low-level radioactive waste (VLLW) and near surface repositories for final disposal of short-lived low- and intermediate level radioactive waste (LILW-SL)
- energy sector projects to mitigate the consequences of shutting down reactors such as having to replace lost electricity generation capacity
- projects to mitigate social consequences such as lost employment.
Total financial support given to the programmes between 1999 and 2020 is foreseen to be €3816 million.