In the frame of their European Union accession negotiations and in view of increasing nuclear safety, Bulgaria, Lithuania and Slovakia committed themselves to the early closure and subsequent decommissioning of eight 'non-upgradeable' nuclear reactors. The European Court of Auditors found that progress has been slow, no comprehensive assessment of future needs exists, and available funding is plainly insufficient. The Court recommended making conditional any further support upon an evaluation of the EU added value.
The special report “EU Financial assistance for the decommissioning of nuclear plants in Bulgaria, Lithuania and Slovakia: Achievements and Future Challenges” by the European Court of Auditors, deals with the implementation of the decommissioning programmes from 1999 up to the end of 2010. The main objective of the Court’s audit was to "assess the effectiveness of the EU funded programs (1999–2010) in contributing towards the decommissioning of the nuclear reactors and addressing the consequences of their early closure." The EU provided financial assistance to the three country-programs: 2 850 million euro overall for the 1999-2013 period. The main vehicles for EU funding for decommissioning of the 8 reactors were the TACIS (providing technical assistance to the partner States in eastern Europe and central Asia) and the PHARE programs (supporting financial and technical cooperation with the candidate central and eastern European countries).
Meanwhile, Bulgaria (Kozloduy 1-4), Lithuania (Ignalina 1-2) and Slovakia (Bohunice V1 1-2) have closed the reactors between 2002 and 2008 in line with their commitment, the main process is still ahead and its finalisation faces a significant funding shortfall.
The conclusions are devastating:
(a) As a result of a relatively loose policy framework, the programmes do not benefit from a comprehensive needs assessment, prioritisation, the setting of specific objectives and results to be achieved. Responsibilities are diffused, in particular with regard to monitoring and the achievement of programme objectives as a whole. The Commission’s supervision focuses on the budgetary execution and project implementation.
(b) There is no comprehensive assessment concerning the progress of the decommissioning and mitigation process. Delays and cost overruns were noted for key infrastructure projects.
(c) Although the reactors were shut-down between 2002 and 2009, the programmes have not yet triggered the required organisational changes to allow the operators to turn into effective decommissioning organisations.
(d) Currently available financial resources (including an EU contribution until 2013 worth 2,85 billion euro) will be insufficient and the funding shortfall is significant (around 2,5 billion euro)!
The Court recommends that:
(a) The Commission should put in place the conditions for an effective, efficient and economical use of EU funds. It should establish a detailed needs assessment showing the progress of the programmes so far, the activities still to be performed and an overall financing plan identifying the funding sources. Before further spending takes place, the Commission should analyse the resources available and the expected benefits. This should lead in turn to objectives being aligned with the budget made available and to the establishment of meaningful performance indicators which can subsequently be monitored and reported on as necessary.
(b) Should the EU decide, as proposed by the Commission, to provide further financial assistance in the next multi-annual financial framework, this support should be made conditional upon an ex ante evaluation of the EU added value of such intervention, identifying the specific activities to be financed through the EU budget and taking account of other funding facilities such as Structural Funds.
Delays and Cost-overruns
As at 31 December 2010, the programs had launched 101 projects which contributed towards the decommissioning of the eight reactors. The total value of these projects, which were almost exclusively funded by the EU, was 1 125 million euro.
An analysis of the infrastructure projects shows delays and cost overruns. In particular, key projects within the critical path of the decommissioning process are delayed, for example facilities for spent fuel and radioactive waste management (i.e spent fuel storage facilities and facilities for radioactive waste treatment, storage and final disposal).
In March 2011 the recipient Member States updated their decommissioning cost estimates, to reach 5,3 billion euro. A comparison with the decommissioning funding currently available at national and programme level suggests a shortfall of around 2,5 billion euro.
Slovakia has committed itself to topping up the funding needed for decommissioning and has created a specific funding mechanism (a tax on electricity transmission) to contribute towards reducing the funding shortfall. Lithuania and Bulgaria have not put in place any equivalent mechanism. The absence of sufficient funding arrangements puts the completion of the decommissioning processes at risk.
Sources: European Court of Auditors Special Report No 16/2011 “EU Financial assistance for the decommissioning of nuclear plants in Bulgaria, Lithuania and Slovakia: Achievements and Future Challenges”. Available at: http://eca.europa.eu/portal/pls/portal/docs/1/12036727.PDF