Decommissioning of nuclear power plants triggers project business
The USA are currently decommissioning 18 nuclear power plants. In Europe the decommissioning of nuclear power plants will rise sharply as ageing plants, restrictive energy policies and pretty low energy prices shift the industry towards more shutdowns. Germany´s Government decided some years ago to shut down all nuclear power plants by 2022. France also aims to reduce the share of nuclear power from 75% down to 50% by 2025 and increase the renewables significantly. Many other countries are dismantling ageing reactors, so this is a huge (project) business to be performed in the upcoming decades (see illustration).
Decommissioning takes between 10 and 15 years, including activities such as planning, preparation of system decontamination, insulation removal, pipe cutting downsizing auxiliary systems, dismantling and disposal of all equipment as well as buildings. It´s not yet clear what the overall cost of decommissioning will be. Growing project experience could lead into shortening dismantling and decontamination timelines and the cost associated with it. However, the cost are tremendous, estimates vary between 1 and 3 Billion Euros per plant.
In addition, there are cost for nuclear waste treatment and long-term storages, which are significant. In Germany, the Government and EnBW, E.ON, RWE and Vattenfall agreed last year to establish a decommissioning fund amounting to 23.6 Billion Euros, from which the cost for on-site storage and final disposal of radioactive waste will be covered. This also means, if there are cost overruns, the Government is in charge of covering all additional cost. The cases of Germany and Ukraine (Chernobyl) demonstrate how difficult it is to find a safe place for storing radioactive waste together with all societal and environmental questions.
In near future all countries will need to develop competences dealing with such complex projects or programmes, in Europe, in the USA and in some parts of Asia. In literature there are only a few cases of establishing and operating nuclear facilities seen through the eyes of project management. Thus we need to collect, exchange and build on experiences collected in such decommissioning projects.