As renewable energy picks up, nuclear decommissioning market booms

Though India is yet to take up decommissioning, it has a fund worth Rs 1,975 crore to do the job in the future

By DTE Staff
Published: Friday 21 June 2019
India is yet to start decommissioning nuclear plants. Photo: Getty Images

An increase in the number of renewable energy sources and safety concerns have prompted more countries to move away from nuclear energy, fuelling a market to decommission nuclear power plants. This very specialised operations market will grow at 5 per cent during 2018-2025, estimated a recent research. 

Around 110 commercial power reactors, 48 prototype reactors, more than 250 research reactors and numerous fuel cycle facilities were out of operation by September 2017, according to several estimates. The process to decommission them is long — plant components have to be dismantled and disposed safely.

“The number is expected to increase further during the forecast period (2018-2023),” highlighted the new survey by business analytics firm Adroit Market Research.

European Union countries are leading in this withdrawal from nuclear energy sources. Germany and France have already put in place nuclear energy phase out plans. France will close down 17 nuclear power stations by 2025. In the US, which has the highest number of nuclear power plants (99), has already decommissioned 10 power plants while 20 are under decommissioning.

“Growing focus on the usage of renewable energy and planned phase-out of nuclear energy by countries in the European Union is expected to drive the nuclear decommissioning market in Europe during the forecast period,” according to the research.

Some 76 nuclear reactors will be retired globally between 2015 and 2019, 183 units in the 2020s and 127 units in the 2030s. In Europe, the nuclear decommissioning services market is expected to grow at 29.57 per cent during 2018-2022.

India is yet to start decommissioning nuclear plants even when there is a guideline to do so by the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board. The Nuclear Power Corp of India Ltd (NCPI), India’s sole nuclear energy producer, already collects “decommissioning levy” from users to create a fund to finance decommission activities in the future. This fund is managed by the Department of Atomic Energy.  

The 2017-18 annual NCPI report mentioned that the decommission levy fund has at least Rs 1,975 crore.

In a reply to a Parliament question in 2012, Manmohan Singh, the then Prime Minister, who also used to head the Department of Atomic Energy, said India doesn’t want to cap life of a nuclear power plant. However, in the same reply, the Centre had reassured that India has the “comprehensive capabilities to decommission and the country has decommissioned research reactors Zerlina and Purnima”.

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