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21st Feb 2024

EU struggles with cost of nuclear clean-up

  • EU countries need to set aside more funds for decomissioning and cleaning up nuclear reactors (Photo: IAEA Imagebank)

Europe will need to spend €253 billion by 2050 on nuclear waste management and plant decommissioning, more than double the funds currently available, according to a report by the European Commission.

In total, decommissioning of old reactors will cost €120 billion and €130 billion will be needed for the management of spent fuel, radioactive waste and disposal processes.

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“Member states have also provided data on assets backing these expected investments, which amounted to approximately €133 billion,” EU regulators wrote in the report released on Monday (4 April).

The report is the commission's first assessment of the nuclear industry since the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan in 2011.

In total 129 nuclear reactors operate across 16 EU countries, providing 27 percent of the electricity in the EU.

Some 90 percent of the continent’s nuclear plants are set to shut by 2050.

The average age of reactors is 30 years, but some operators are looking into extending their lifetime by 10 to 20 years, which would require an investment of €45 to 50 billion, according to the report.

The report says €500 billion will be needed to meet the cost of building new plants and extending the lifetime of older ones.

The total estimated investment between 2015 and 2050 is between €650 and €760 billion.

EU commissioner for energy and climate Miguel Arias Canete said Europe “has learnt the lessons” of Fukushima.

“Together we should be able to identify ways to cooperate across Europe to ensure that knowledge about the safest use of nuclear power plants is shared, rather than done separately by each regulator, and that the management of radioactive waste is secured financially by member states until its final disposal,” he said in a statement.

Under EU rules, member states are responsible for waste management.

The European Greens however said the commission's data was too optimistic.

Green MEP Rebecca Harms called the report a “bizarre mixture of illusion and propaganda”.

"The commission seriously plays down the costs of nuclear power, whether as regards new construction, security upgrades, decommissioning and waste,” she said, arguing that building new facilities is not competitive.

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