The development of nuclear waste management policy continues across the world. The leading countries in this sector remain in Europe where the market for decommissioning is estimated at approximately €4.5 billion in 2016 and is expected to double by 2021. There were a few significant changes in 2016, one of which was the administrative action in the European Union (EU). As a follow-up to the 2015 requirement for member states to notify the European Commission of their national nuclear waste management programs by August 2015, the Commission found that, for example, Latvia did not fully transpose into national law EU Directive 2011/70 Establishing a Community Framework for the Responsible and Safe Management of Spent Fuel and Radioactive Waste (Radioactive Waste Directive). This builds on the 2014 reports: (1) Radioactive Waste Management Stakeholders Map in the European Union: Report May 2014 and (2) Management of Spent Nuclear Fuel and Its Waste (produced by both the European Commission and the European Academies’ Science Advisory Council). Both of these reports are designed to assist EU member states in meeting their requirements under the Radioactive Waste Directive, which requires them to establish a dedicated policy, including the implementation of national programs for the management of spent fuel and radioactive waste. Internationally, however, other global leaders in this area—for example, Canada and the United States—continue to make little progress. (1) Commission Although 2016 was not as active as anticipated, it was more active than 2015 in regard to the evaluation of national programs for the management of spent fuel and radioactive waste. On 3 August, the Commission found that a petition on the creation of European nuclear waste storage facilities was relevant but left the policy decisions relating to the disposal of spent fuel and radioactive waste to each member state. Also, in April, the Commission had specifically requested Latvia to fully transpose the Radioactive Waste Directive into national law. The Commission also presented a recommendation to EU countries concerning the application of Article 103 of the Treaty Establishing the European Atomic Energy Community, which makes the Commission’s opinion on agreements with non-EU countries on nuclear matters (intergovernmental agreements) a prerequisite. This recommendation aims to clarify the key factors regarding the new directives on nuclear safety and the safe management of spent fuel and radioactive waste that EU countries should consider when negotiating such agreements. (2) National Legislation and Policy on Radioactive Waste Management (A) France Plans for a final, deep geological disposal storage facility for France’s nuclear radioactive waste continue in the form of the Cigéo project. The International Atomic Energy Agency conducted a peer review of the ‘Safety Options File’ of Cigéo on 7–15 November. The international review team comprised experts from Switzerland, Sweden, Germany, Finland, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Belgium. The findings were that the safety options for the deep geological facility for the disposal of high and intermediate-level radioactive waste were completely thorough. Construction is hoped to commence in 2020 and to be operational (pilot case) by 2025 should a license be granted in 2018. A construction permit application for the project is planned for 2017. (B) Sweden Sweden continues to advance its plans in developing its nuclear waste management policy in 2016. The license application by Sweden’s radioactive waste management company for an integrated system for the final disposal of used nuclear fuel and radioactive waste has been endorsed by the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority. The authority made a positive endorsement of the repository system to the Land and Environment Court, which will make a final decision to licence the facilities next year. With the current timelines, SKB, the Swedish Nuclear Fuel and Waste Management Company, plans to start construction of the spent fuel repository and the encapsulation plant early in the 2020s. (C) Finland Perhaps the most significant decision internationally regarding nuclear waste happened in Finland in 2015. Finland’s Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority approved in 2015 the plan for the nuclear waste management project, Posiva Oy, for which an application was submitted in December 2012. Posiva is a nuclear waste management company jointly owned by Finnish nuclear utilities Fortum and TVO that will develop the project. An operating licence will still be needed, and this will be applied for in or near 2020; however, initially, the project was given only a 6,500-tonne repository capacity (with a potential capacity of 12,000 tonnes). The project received its construction licence in November 2015. Posiva Oy and YIT Construction signed a contract on the excavation of the first tunnels for Posiva’s final disposal facility on 29 November 2016. The operating license will be applied for in 2023 and possibly granted in 2025. The project will be financed by the State Nuclear Waste Management Fund, which has already accumulated €2.38 billion and anticipated project costs will be €3 billion and, therefore, will be met by 2020 (given approximately a €110 million annual contribution, including fund interest). (D) Canada A federally appointed review panel was formed in 2015 to review and approve a deep geologic repository for 200,000 cubic metres of low- and intermediate-level wastes from three plants in the Ontario Power Generation’s Western Waste Management Facility on the Bruce site. The significant development on 30 January 2016 was that the environmental assessment had begun. However, final approval had not yet been given by December, and time for the issuance of the Decision Statement for the proposed project was extended by 243 days on 12 December 2016. (E) United States Developments in the area of nuclear waste management have slowed down in the United States. Contributions to the Nuclear Waste Fund (NWF) stopped in May 2015 with the Department of Energy halting their collection. The NWF received fees of approximately US $750 million each year and, with an accumulated total of US $28 billion, receives approximately US $1 billion in interest a year. Fees (or contributions) are in essence on hold until the secretary of state devises a new nuclear waste management plan after the problems of the Yucca Mountain project. Progress made in 2013 has dissipated. The Nuclear Waste Administration Act of 2013 was not passed and has been updated to the proposed Nuclear Waste Administration Act of 2015. In addition, the recommendations of the report by the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future regarding nuclear waste have not been acted on. A new public consultation for 2016 was launched. The strategy aims to develop an interim storage facility by 2021 for used fuel from nuclear reactors that have closed. Potentially, there would be the development of a further and larger interim storage facility by 2025 and a long-term geological repository for 2048. The major progress in 2016 was the announcement by the navy and the Department of Energy of a potential $1.6 billion facility at a nuclear site in eastern Idaho that would handle nuclear-powered warship fuel waste until 2060. (F) United Kingdom In 2015, the UK government followed the white paper, Implementing Geological Disposal od 24 July 2014 with a Lead Document setting out the United Kingdom’s National Programme for the Responsible and Safe Management of Spent Fuel and Radioactive Waste, which was published in August 2015. The introduction of the former white paper means the beginning of a two-year consultation period and then the establishment of a geological disposal facility (GDF). The white paper builds on a 2013 consultation. The consultation was launched on 8 September 2015 as a twelve-week consultation to ensure that the public plays a central role in the work to plan for, build, and operate a GDF deep underground, providing a permanent solution for the country’s most radioactive waste. In 2016, the key development involved the Office for Nuclear Regulation, which has started work on producing additional guidance for licensing and regulating a GDF to help inform the developer of the GDF and prospective volunteer communities to host the GDF. The siting process is due to begin in 2017. (G) India New legislation in the form of the Nuclear Safety Regulatory Authority Bill has yet to be passed. However, it was announced in October 2014 that a new Council on Nuclear Safety that would be headed by the prime minister would be established. After a fresh round of inter-ministerial consultations in 2015, a bill was prepared to establish a new Nuclear Safety Regulatory Authority, but it had not yet been passed in 2016. The bill would dissolve the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board. Research is ongoing, however, at the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre for a geological repository. (H) China Nuclear Waste Management policy in China is under-developed, but plans continue. In August 2016, there were protests opposing a plan to build a nuclear waste recycling facility in Jiangsu. This led to the suspension of the feasibility study for the project. However, China still has plans for long-term storage facilities for some military nuclear waste. It is anticipated that, by the end of 2020, China would have to deal with more than 1,000 tonnes of spent fuel annually. Meanwhile, a research laboratory will be built between 2015–30, and a final repository is planned for 2040. (I) United Arab Emirates (UAE) From the outset of its nuclear energy program in 2009, the UAE resolved to forgo domestic enrichment and reprocessing and to conclude (if available) long-term arrangements for the disposal of spent fuel. In this context, in May 2016, Nawah Energy Company was established to operate and maintain the four 1,400 megawatt electric Barakah nuclear units. The UAE is also committed to a ‘dual track’ radioactive waste management strategy. This involves developing a national storage and disposal program as well as exploring regional cooperation options. A third approach would be to return spent fuel to suppliers. The aim would either be to store used fuel in reactor ponds for up to twenty years or transfer to dry storage after six years. Reprocessing in another jurisdiction would be dependent on cost but is being considered. It is contemplated that liability for the used fuel will be transferred to a state-owned entity after approximately twenty years. A significant development is the involvement of the Swedish Nuclear Fuel and Waste Management Company. In conjunction with the Arab Atomic Energy Agency, it is exploring the prospects of a geological waste repository in the UAE with the possibility of wider participation in the Middle East and North Africa. The regional options being discussed will mirror examples in the EU. (3) Nuclear Energy Development A possible nuclear renaissance can now be identified on the horizon. Progress remains slow in terms of projects beginning or completing construction; nevertheless, the industry is moving forward. The latest figures suggest that there are sixty reactors under construction worldwide in thirteen countries. This is in addition to the plant upgrading at many existing facilities that will increase capacity. Furthermore, plant extensions are being granted to a number of nuclear reactors worldwide. (A) United Kingdom Significant progress has been made in the United Kingdom with the signing of the final documentation to enable its first nuclear project at Hinkley Point on 29 September 2016. The agreement with EDF Energy was a major development for nuclear energy in the United Kingdom. The significance of this is a commitment to deliver a low-carbon economy through the UK energy policy. This follows the decision by the UK government to phase out coal-fired electricity generation plants by 2025. In addition, they stated that the Hinkley Point C project is not to be a one-off project but, rather, is to develop a new nuclear fleet with reactors also at Wylfa and Moorside. This was preceded by the decision in 2015 to grant a twenty-year life extension for Sizewell B. (B) United States The United States is more advanced in its nuclear law and policy in regard to new nuclear builds than the United Kingdom. In the United States, two new nuclear energy projects continue to be constructed, each with two new AP1000 reactors: (1) Plant Vogtle in Georgia and (2) V.C. Summer in southern California. While these projects continue to be before the courts in relation to contract disputes, they are still expected to be both operational by 2020. A third nuclear energy project in Tennessee—the Watts Bar Unit 2—has officially entered commercial operation. Though acknowledged as a new build, this reactor had been previously left unfinished in 1985 so it is not considered ‘new nuclear energy development.’ The projects that pursued a construction and operating licence (COL) in 2016 were: William States Lee (South Carolina); Turkey Point (Florida); and the South Texas Project. In August 2016, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission concluded that there were no safety concerns that would inhibit a COL for the William States Lee III project and awarded the licenses in December 2016. However, it should be noted that there is a significant difference between applying for the COL and beginning construction of the nuclear project. Despite the expectation that the COL may be granted in 2017 for Turkey Point, the pre-construction process has been postponed to at least 2020. Similarly, the South Texas Project received clearance for license issuance in February 2016. However, construction delays are anticipated due to hostile market conditions over the possibility of electricity rate increases as a result of reactor construction costs. (C) China The Chinese government continues their ambitious nuclear energy plans. The Chinese nuclear strategy emanates from their Energy Development Strategy Action Plan (2014–20), published in November 2014, which set the target for 2020 of fifty-eight gigawatts from nuclear energy and a further thirty gigawatts to be under construction. As of 2015, there was progress, with thirty nuclear reactors under construction and a further twenty-four soon to begin construction. However, it is significant that in 2016, construction started on only one new plant, which may hinder overall delivery of the fifty-eight gigawatts of electric capacity by 2020. Concerns over the limited development of low-carbon energy infrastructure remain as 210 coal plants were given full preliminary approval to begin construction by March 2016. The Chinese government has begun suspensions of further coal plant licenses. (D) Czech Republic The Czech Republic is one of the few East European countries with advanced new nuclear energy plans. It postponed its decision of who will build two approved reactors—Temelin 3 and 4—until it finalizes a new energy policy in 2015. This new energy policy has reiterated its support for nuclear energy, but without any state guarantees on electricity prices. Nevertheless, despite this mixed level of support for nuclear energy, it is expected to play a key, if not dominant, role in the Czech electricity mix and even to provide between 46 and 58 percent of electricity by 2040. In January 2016, a new committee, headed by the prime minister, was established to coordinate the development of new nuclear construction, supply chain, wastes, and legislation. (E) Finland In Finland, the Fennovoima Hanhikivi nuclear project continues to progress. In 2016, the main project timeline was the development of a plan for the final disposal of the spent fuel and site preparation. Construction is expected to start in 2018. Development in other Finnish nuclear energy projects remains slow. Okiluoto 4, in essence, has been postponed until there is clarification on the ongoing cost overruns and potential operation of Okiluoto 3, which is scheduled to begin operation in 2018 (F) Turkey Turkey’s ambition to build new nuclear energy remains just that after a turbulent 2015 in its relations with Russia; however, in 2016, political relationships have improved. Rosatom was to begin the initial construction of Turkey’s first nuclear energy project at Akkuyu in 2015. The project has suffered a number of delays with the major one affecting the environmental approval that was expected in 2013 but was delayed until 2014. Finally, after a controversial fourth attempt, the environmental impact assessment was approved in November 2014. In June 2016, Rosatom projected that construction would start in 2018, while the government announced in August 2016 that it would classify the project as a strategic investment, allowing favourable tax treatment. A second nuclear energy project is planned at Sinop as well as a third site, which is yet to be determined. For the Sinop project, it is still anticipated that, rather ambitiously, construction will begin in 2017, and operation is expected by 2023. For the third nuclear project, negotiations continue with Elektrik Üretim Anonim Sirketi and the State Nuclear Power Technology Company of China and Westinghouse to develop a four-unit nuclear power plant. (G) Romania After ongoing financial and investor problems for many years in aiming to complete Cernavoda (units 3 and 4), 2016 saw further progress as the Romanian government gave support to the creation of a joint venture led by the China General Nuclear Power Group. The memorandum of understanding had previously been signed in November 2015 with the Romanian firm Nuclearelectrica to develop, construct, and operate the two reactors (<http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/NN-Romania-and-China-seal-Cernavoda-agreement-10111501.html>). (H) Russia Russia is one of the larger nuclear nations in terms of nuclear capacity and expertise. From a national perspective, there has been a retraction in its plans with the domestic 2030 target of 43.4 gigawatts of electric capacity being halved in 2015. Capacity factors are improving at Russian nuclear reactors, but at approximately 80 percent they still remain low in comparison to many other nuclear nations who are running theirs at 90 percent and even above. In 2016, over twenty nuclear power reactors are planned for export construction. Foreign orders totaled US $133 billion at the end of 2016, with Rosatom announcing that Russia’s gross domestic product gained three roubles for every rouble invested in domestic construction of nuclear power plants. Operational licence extensions had been implemented for twenty-four units totalling 16,242 megawatts of electric capacity, and, in August 2016, as part of the Unified Energy System of Russia, the government unveiled plans to build eleven new reactors. (I) Other New nuclear energy projects continue to be planned and underway in several countries such as Bulgaria, Belarus, Iran, Japan, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Slovakia, and Taiwan. Some significant progress has been made by Korea and the UAE. Korea plans to bring a further three reactors into operation by 2018 and another eight by about 2030, giving a total new capacity of 17,200 megawatt of electric capacity, while the UAE is building four commercial nuclear power reactors at a cost of US $20 billion in conjunction with a South Korean consortium. Construction is expected to be completed by 2020 with a total output of 5.6 gigawatts of electric capacity. All four units are under construction with the first expected on line in 2017. The UAE is an exceptional case where, due to serious public engagement, the project enjoys high public support. This is contrary to the anticipated global pattern where nuclear energy projects face diverse legal hurdles and public perception issues mainly concerning environmental and investment agreements. It is expected that these projects will continue in 2017 but only where there are concerted efforts to address public concerns related to overall safety of nuclear power plants and nuclear waste disposal in particular. © The Author 2017. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: email@example.com
Yearbook of International Environmental Law – Oxford University Press
Published: Dec 28, 2017
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