Third quarter of 2002

Kozloduy, Bulgaria: COGEMA Consultant Finds that Reprocessing Turns out 20% More Expensive than Direct Disposal

WISE-Paris, 16 September 2002

[Posted 17/09/2002]

Kozloduy Nuclear Power Plant (KNPP) considers interim storage and direct disposal are the most cost effective options for its fuel cycle back-end management. Both are cheaper than the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel, which could cost up to 20% more than direct disposal.

This is one of the main conclusions of a study by Teodor Nochev for KNPP and Todor Madolev, the representative for COGEMA engineering subsidiary SGN in Bulgaria. The results were presented at a Bulatom (Bulgarian Atomic Forum) conference on “Nuclear Power in Eastern Europe: Options, Challenges and Future” which took place from June 28th to June 30th in Varna, Bulgaria (1).

The comparison of three options for the fuel cycle back-end, i.e. reprocessing, direct disposal and interim storage (called “postponed decision”), and their impacts on the costs of electricity production, is clearly in favor of the third one. But considering only the two other management options, the paper shows that direct disposal has “a comparatively low price around 10-20%”, necessitates fewer transportations, and presents fewer technological difficulties “while few countries in the world […] can afford operating of Spent Fuel Treatment Facility”. Moreover, the paper takes into account the public acceptance which also pushes in favor of the direct disposal option.

The French nuclear fuel company COGEMA is one of the few companies offering reprocessing services on the international market. Although the hypothesis underlying the comparison are not explicit in the study, one can assume that the best commercial conditions COGEMA could offer were taken into account. These are simply not competitive with other options, either provided by other countries or to be implemented in Bulgaria.

However, the paper does not discuss the present situation of spent fuel management at KNPP, nor the potential way to switch to any of the three options. In fact, Bulgaria, Ukraine and Russia signed a trilateral agreement early August 2002, on spent fuel shipment from KNPP to Russia’s Zheleznogorsk complex operated by the Russian Ministry of Atomic Energy (Minatom).

This agreement is part of KNPP spent fuel management developments, and if the spent fuel covered under the trilateral agreement can be considered as a ‘take back’ option of the nuclear fuel services provided by Russia, it is actually destined to interim storage. Russia is not able to reprocess this spent fuel in the existing facilities at Zheleznogorsk (yet?), and there is no clear option about its future. Moreover, KNPP is also planning to build a dry spent fuel interim store at Kozloduy. The Nuclear Safety Account of the European Bank for Reconstruction & Development (EBRD) could finance the project as soon as October 2002, with the goal of facilitating early shutdown of the four controversial KNPP VVER-440 units, as requested by the European Commission under current enlargement talks.

Also, the paper’s conclusions should be put in perspective with the relatively bad results of AREVA’s – the holding that includes COGEMA - back end division for the first semester of 2002. Sales of the division dropped by 18.3% as compared to the first semester of 2001. Furthermore, the slow decline of COGEMA’s reprocessing operations could be accentuated with the fulfillment over the coming three years of quasi all current foreign contracts. Indeed, all Japanese fuel as well as almost all small quantities - remaining on site as of the end of 2001 were Belgium (0.3 t), Netherlands (4 t), Switzerland (68 t), Australia (0.2 t) - under contract have already been processed and the remaining German fuel on site (347 t) is far from covering a substantial share of the vast capacities at La Hague (2 x 850 t).


  1. Teodor Nochev, KNPP Plc, and Todor Madolev, COGEMA, “Development of Nuclear Fuel Cycle in Bulgaria and Worldwide Experience”, Bulatom conference, 28-30 June 2002, Varna

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