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    5 billion euros short in nuclear waste management funds

    The Greens consider, following an academic study, that there is a definite shortage of nearly 5 billion euros in the funds available for managing nuclear waste. The French and Flemish green parties, the Ecolo and Groen are demanding that Belgium re-evaluates the costs of nuclear decommissioning and takes responsibility for Electrabel.

    In 2013, overall decommissioning costs and nuclear waste management for the seven nuclear reactors was estimated at 13.6 billion euros. This breaks down as 4.5 billion euros for decommissioning and 9.1 billion euros for long-term waste management.

    Ecologists requested a researcher from the Free University of Brussels, Estelle Cantillon, to evaluate whether the provision mechanism set up is sufficient.

    The totals are very largely under-estimated, they conclude. The study points to an erroneously “discounted rate”. The amounts secured will be spent over a long period. The estimated costs therefore rest upon a comparison of the difference between the future and current values of a given item of expenditure.

    Yet, the rate adopted is largely over-valued. It has made it possible for Electrabel to minimise the reverberations of decommissioning power stations, planned from 2025, on its balance sheet. However, the Greens assert, it poses, both in the medium and long term, an enormous risk to public finances.

    As well as the problem linked to this figure (a loss totaling three billion euros), the Greens add an under-evaluation of the decommissioning and waste management. Numerous issues have not been resolved.

    These include the type of containment used and the selected burial depth of the waste (the Belgian National Agency for Radioactive Waste and enriched Fissile Material) hypothesizes upon 220 metres. However a lecturer from the ULB adavances the need to go down as far as 500 metres).

    In addition other unresolved points include the lack of definition and legal categorization of waste and the historic management of MOX and other burning issues.

    The European Commission recently updated the overall costs of decommissioning nuclear power stations in Europe as being 253 billion euros, or 47% more than a 2008 evaluation.

    The Greens say that there is currently a financial shortage of 4.7 billion euros, which will indeed come to nearly eight billion euros if costs continue to increase.

    Oscar Schneider (Source: Belga)