‘Formidable Challenges’ / NEA Calls For New Approaches To Decommissioning And Waste Management Funding

By David Dalton
21 June 2021

NEA Calls For New Approaches To Decommissioning And Waste Management Funding
Waste containers at the Ignalina nuclear power station site in Lithuania.
Funding systems for decommissioning and radioactive waste management are adequate overall, but formidable challenges lay ahead including the fact that some governments and critics express doubts about nuclear energy’s long-term sustainability, a report by the Nuclear Energy Agency says.

The report says decommissioning and, in particular, radioactive waste management, remain highly sensitive issues in policy debates. While the potential role of nuclear power as a source of dispatchable low-carbon electricity in greenhouse gas emission reductions is undisputed, some governments and critics remain doubtful about its future.

The report, which calls for new approaches to funding for decommissioning and radioactive waste management, says the world’s nuclear power reactors are ageing, with most approaching the end of their planned operational lifetimes in the coming years.

It says the very long-term nature of the solutions, in particular for radioactive waste disposal, requires that all elements of the system – accrued funds, expected future returns, the lifetimes of nuclear power plants, the expected costs of politically sustainable technical solutions and the liabilities for residual risks – are reviewed at regular intervals. Complementing existing approaches with “a circular approach” will strengthen funding arrangements and ensure their adequacy for decades to come.

This circular approach would be more adaptable than existing approaches and could evolve to accommodate changes in economic framework conditions, a political decision to shorten or extend the operating lifetimes of nuclear power plants, a new technological or legal option for radioactive waste management or new societal pressures to accelerate or delay the implementation of radioactive waste management solutions.

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