Switzerland to return decommissioning funds to nuclear plant operators

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Switzerland has issued a new decree to address excess funds for nuclear decommissioning and waste disposal, the Swiss Energy Office said on Monday.

The decree will take into account the longer-expected lifetime of nuclear power plants from 40 to 50 years, which has left excess sums totalling around CHF 600-700 million (EUR 363-423 million) in the funds. These sums must now be returned to nuclear power plant operators. The total cost of decommissioning and waste disposal for Switzerland's five nuclear power plants was estimated at CHF 13.7 billion in 2001, the majority of which (CHF 11.8 billion) was allocated for the disposal of waste. By the end of 2006, around CHF 4.4 billion had accumulated in the funds.

The Swiss Energy Office highlighted that the decree had no impact on the actual operational lifetime of the plants, which would be determined by a number of factors, including safety requirements. Under the new rules, the expected operational life of the Beznau I and II, Gösgen und Leibstadt nuclear power plants will be increased from 40 to 50 years. All these plants have no current restrictions on their operational life, and the funds would be adjusted again, should any continue beyond 50 years, the office said.

The office also confirmed that the BKW-owned 355 MW Mühleberg nuclear power plant would still be assumed to have a life of 40 years, meaning it would shut down operations in 2012, pending a court decision over the plant. In March, the Swiss federal administrative court told the Energy and Environment Ministry to reconsider BKW's application to lift the time limit on the operational life of the plant (see EDEM 11.053).

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