Persistent concerns over the management and use of funds earmarked for decommissioning nuclear plants in EU states should be addressed by increasing the level of independent oversight, rather than through new legislation, according to the European commission.
The conclusion is contained in the commission's second report on funding for nuclear decommissioning, published without fanfare at the end of last year. The report follows a similar exercise in 2004, and analyses the impact of a 2006 EU recommendation containing guidelines for member states on how to manage decommissioning funds.
The commission estimates that around a third of the EU's 145 currently operational nuclear reactors will need to be decommissioned by 2025. It says "wide variations" still exist in the decommissioning strategies and funding methods of different EU countries. But it is "reasonably
confident" that member states are acting responsibly, and says all EU states have put in place the necessary legislation and enforcement bodies.
Despite this, the commission says a failure to apply national requirements in practice has resulted in persistent concerns. In some countries plant operators are providing insufficient funding for decommissioning. The commission says this runs counter to the polluter-pays principle and could amount to market-distorting state aid.
There are also concerns regarding the level of independent oversight for funds in several member states, which the commission says could give rise to inaccurate cost estimates and poor financial performance of funds.
The commission concludes that "these concerns could be better addressed by independent oversight of the decommissioning funds" rather than further EU or national legislation. But it adds that harmonised EU decommissioning strategies for future nuclear constructions should be
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