Concerns over possible EU restrictions on boric acid

10 December 2014

Eurelectric, an association of European electricity generators, has expressed concerns over the possible inclusion of boric acid on the European Chemicals Agency's Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) authorisation list.

ECHA launched a public consultation, ending 1 December, calling for comments on the recommendation.

Boric acid is used in all pressurised water nuclear reactors and to a lesser extent in boiling water reactors. It is also used in the glass for vitrification of nuclear waste.

"Boric acid, whether natural or enriched, is used across the whole nuclear fuel cycle. Boric acid is vital to control nuclear fission reactions in nuclear electric power plants and to ensure nuclear safety," Eurelectric said.

"No other chemical compound has the same characteristics required to replace boric acid for this use as expected in the authorisation process."

The association is concerned that boric uses would be either limited or subject to unsuitable requirements.

"Indeed, even if the European Chemical Agency (ECHA) does authorise the use of boric acid in the nuclear fuel cycle, we still have concerns that authorisation will be required on a regular basis," Eurelectric said.

"Given the fact that boric acid has no substitute, the rolling application process is particularly costly and contributes to undermining the regulatory certainty needed for investments in nuclear power plants."

The association has called for a 'risk management option' study to be carried out for boric acid, and borates in general, before any inclusion in the authorisation list is considered.

Nuclear electricity generators and electricity utilities will also be providing detailed comments to the consultation, as well as information to the European commission on the possible socio-economic consequences of including boric acid in the authorisation list, Eurelectric said.

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