Swiss decommissioning cost estimate rises by 10%

28 November 2011

The bill to for decommissioning and radioactive waste disposal at Switzerland’s five nuclear power plants is estimated at CHF 20.654 billion ($22.455 billion). This represents a 10% increase since the last estimate in 2006, according to figures from the Swiss Federal Energy Office (SFOE).

The cost estimates, released 24 November, are updated every five years to reflect the state of current knowledge and technological developments. The latest update has been prepared by swissnuclear, a specialist technical section of the Swiss electricity suppliers' organization swisselectric.

The costs are broken down into post-operational costs, plant decommissioning costs and radioactive waste management costs. The largest proportion of the cost is for disposal, which includes the design, construction and operation of a geological repository.

Costs for a five-year post-operational phase immediately after a plant is closed are estimated at CHF 1.709 billion ($1.857 billion), up 2% on the previous estimate. This phase, which includes removal of the fuel elements and decommissioning preparations is funded entirely by plant operators and is not covered by the Swiss decommissioning and nuclear waste management funds.

Decommissioning costs of the five nuclear power stations and the central interim waste management facility in Würenlingen is estimated at CHF 2.974 billion ($3.227 billion). This represents an increase of 17% over the 2006 estimate as it takes into account the higher costs experienced at ongoing decommissioning projects in Germany. The decommissioning costs will be fully covered by the decommissioning fund, which stood at CHF 1.331 billion ($1.444 billion) as of 31 December 2010. The remaining funds will be provided by the nuclear power plant operators and returns on capital.

Disposal costs are the highest at an estimated CHF 15.970 billion ($17.330) in 2011. This estimate includes the costs for design, construction, operation and closure of a geological repository as well as costs for radioactive waste transport, storage containers and reprocessing. The cost estimate has increased by 10% since 2006 to reflect experiences from geological tunneling work and tougher nuclear construction standards, SFOE said. The Swiss waste management fund, which stood at CHF 4.799 billion at end of 2010, will cover just over half of the disposal costs (CHF 8.447 billion). The remaining cost will be paid directly by the operators.

The study has determined provisional operator contributions to the decommissioning and waste management funds between 2012 and 2016. The Swiss Federal Nuclear Safety Inspectorate (ENSI) will now review the study. The annual contributions to the funds are expected to be finalized by the end of 2012.

The next cost estimate is scheduled for 2016.

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