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Alba Iulia
Thursday, May 28, 2020

The Court of Auditors’ alert on the costs of dismantling nuclear power plants

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Aerial view of the Fessenheim nuclear power plant (Haut-Rhin), February 21.
Aerial view of the Fessenheim nuclear power plant (Haut-Rhin), February 21. SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP

With the shutdown of the first reactor at the Fessenheim nuclear power plant (Haut-Rhin), Saturday February 22, France has entered a new phase in its history with the civil atom: the beginning of a long process of shutting down the reactors built in the 1980s and 1990s, which will lead to the dismantling of these installations.

In a report written at the request of the Senate finance committee and published Wednesday March 4, the Court of Auditors severely judges the schedule and the costs envisaged by EDF, Orano (ex-Areva) and the CEA to ensure the end of its power stations. It also calls on the state to seriously anticipate future reactor shutdowns and to better plan its energy policy in this area.

Read also In the bowels of nuclear dismantling

Dismantling: costs poorly assessed. Courts recall that France has chosen the principle of dismantling “Immediate”, which has been in the law since 2015 and provides that operations must begin “In as short a time as possible – in economically acceptable conditions”. But the Court noted that the state was not sufficiently well organized to assess the arbitrations proposed by the operators.

Above all, the courts call in their report for greater caution in assessing costs. The current projection of dismantling costs is 46.4 billion euros, with a schedule spanning over a century. “The prudence of current assessments should be further strengthened”, euphemizes the Court of Auditors. She notes that “EDF and Orano exclude certain expenses from their assessment today”, in particular certain charges linked to the end of reactor operation and a part of the tax system.

Report mentions inadequacy in mobilizing public authorities on the subject

The energy company explains for a long time that the costs of dismantling the fleet should be limited thanks to its standardization (the current reactors are all built on the same model). But the court asks the electrician to “Further justify” the “Expected gains” on this subject. Globally, the study estimates that the dismantling provisions should increase by 7 billion euros for EDF, and by 1 billion for Orano.

Another cause for concern is the timing of the operations. “The provisioning of future charges is not always based on the most realistic timetables”, underline the magistrates. The report mentions an insufficiency in the mobilization of public authorities on the subject. One example among others: the commission responsible for evaluating the cost of dismantling submitted a report in 2012 … and has never met since, considering that it could not properly fulfill its missions.

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