This page lists questions and answers on the possibility of amending the law and the licence in order to allow the Borssele nuclear power plant to remain in operation beyond its planned operating life.
The Nuclear Energy Act lays down that no nuclear energy must be released at the Borssele plant after 31 December 2033. The Act also lays down that the Authority for Nuclear Safety and Radiation Protection (ANVS), the competent authority that issues licences under the Nuclear Energy Act, cannot consider any licence applications for the plant to remain in operation after 2033. The question of keeping the plant in operation after 2033 has been under discussion in recent months in the Zeeland Provincial Council, the House of Representatives and elsewhere. This web page provides factual information on the process involved in amending the Act and the licence, but without discussing the desirability or undesirability of doing so.
What is the role of the ANVS?
The Authority for Nuclear Safety and Radiation Protection (ANVS) is the independent nuclear safety and radiation protection regulator in the Netherlands. The Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management (the State Secretary for I&WM in the current Government) is responsible for the statutory and policy framework for nuclear safety and radiation protection. Within that framework, the ANVS sets the safety standards that the nuclear power plant must meet. It grants licences under the Nuclear Energy Act, assesses whether the licensee is meeting the requirements, monitors compliance and can take enforcement action..
The ANVS has no role in considering the desirability or undesirability from the point of view of energy policy of having nuclear energy in the energy mix, and of extending operation of the Borssele nuclear power plant beyond 2033.
Who is the licensee of the Borssele nuclear power plant?
The Borssele nuclear power plant was taken into operation in 1973. The operational licence , like all licences for nuclear installations in the Netherlands, is valid for an indefinite period. The licensee of the plant is the Elektriciteits Productiemaatschappij Zuid-Nederland (Electricity Production Company South-Netherlands, EPZ).
What does the Act lay down about the Borssele nuclear power plant?
The Nuclear Energy Act (Section 15a) lays down that the operational licence expires on 31 December 2033 insofar as it concerns the release of nuclear energy. Section 15a of the Act also lays down that a licence application to release nuclear energy at the plant after 2033, shall not be considered. The Act would therefore need to be amended to permit the plant to be kept in operation after 2033..
These provisions were incorporated in the Act in 2010. The explanatory memorandum for the Act states that the incorporation in the Act of a final closure date for the plant is linked to the agreement on its operating life as stated in the Borssele Nuclear Power Plant Covenant. Not only the Nuclear Energy Act but also the Covenant would therefore need to be amended to permit the plant to be kept in operation after 2033.
What does the Borssele Nuclear Power Plant Covenant lay down?
The Borssele Nuclear Power Plant Covenant (Article 3.2) states that the licensee, EPZ, shall end the plants’ operation no later than 31 December 2033. The Covenant was signed in 2006 by the central government (the then State Secretary for Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment, and the then Minister of Economic Affairs, also on behalf of the State Secretary for Social Affairs and Employment), the owner of the nuclear power plant (the Elektriciteits Productiemaatschappij Zuid-Nederland, EPZ) and its shareholders at the time (Delta and Essent). The current shareholders are the Provinciale Zeeuwse Energie Maatschappij (PZEM) and Rheinisch-Westfälisches Elektrizitätswerk (RWE). Article 12.2 of the Covenant lays down that it “may only be amended or supplemented by a statement signed by the Parties”.
Who decides on any amendment to the Act, and what factors could play a role?
An amendment will need to be drafted if it is decided to change the Nuclear Energy Act. The procedure required is set out on the Dutch government website. The decision on the amendment will be made by the House of Representatives and the Senate.
When decisions are made that could have significant effects on the environment, national, European and international legislation and regulations (including the Aarhus Convention and the Espoo Convention) lay down public participation requirements, such as consultation with the public and interest groups and an environmental impact assessment. This is the case with licences, but it may also apply to legislative proposals and covenants. If the Nuclear Energy Act is amended, the government will assess whether there could be significant effects on the environment, in which case the requirements under such legislation and regulations will need to be taken into account.
If the Nuclear Energy Act and the Covenant were to be amended, could the nuclear power plant remain in operation?
If the Nuclear Energy Act (Section 15a) and the Covenant were to be amended and the licensee (EPZ) wished to keep the plant in operation after 2033, the current licence for the Borssele nuclear power plant would need to be amended. Although the licence for the plant does not state an end date, the underlying safety report forms part of it and would have to be updated. The licensee needs to show in the report that the plant is able to meet the technical safety requirements. The current report is only valid until the end of 2033, in line with the statutory end date of operations. In order to operate the plant after 2033, the licensee would therefore need to add to the report and show, by means of safety analyses and ageing calculations, that safety is still guaranteed after 2033.
The new safety report would need to be assessed and approved by the ANVS. Depending on the ageing of various parts of the facility, particular components may need to be replaced, or modernization work may be necessary. These additional measures could also require a licence amendment, depending on their nature and extent.
Who decides what safety requirements the plant must meet if its operation is extended?
The licensee is responsible for the safety of the nuclear power plant. Within the statutory and policy framework for nuclear safety and radiation protection it is the ANVS that lays down the safety requirements that the plant must meet. The Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management (the State Secretary in the current Government) is responsible for that statutory and policy framework. If the Nuclear Energy Act were to be amended and the plant were to remain in use after 2033, ageing management and long-term operation requirements would play an important role, as it would be in operation for over sixty years. The principle of ‘continuous improvement’ of nuclear safety (as far as reasonably achievable) is also paramount in achieving a suitable level of safety.
Who assesses the licence application and the safety of the nuclear power plant?
The ANVS is the competent authority in the Netherlands for assessing licence applications and granting licences under the Nuclear Energy Act. This is also the case with any application for a licence amendment to keep the Borssele nuclear power plant in operation after 2033. The ANVS can only consider any such application once the Nuclear Energy Act has been amended. It carries out the safety assessment independently and cannot receive instructions on the subject from the Government or the Provincial Council. Following an objection, an appeal can be lodged against a decision of the ANVS with the Council of State.
This website includes a complete overview of the procedures and steps involved in the granting of a licence by the ANVS.
Can the public be consulted on an application to amend the Borssele nuclear power plant’s licence?
The procedure for granting a licence must comply with the rules in force on information and public consultation in line with Chapter 3.4 of the General Administrative Law Act (Awb). Among other things this means that everyone must have the opportunity to take part in public consultation on the draft licence before the final licence is granted. If an environmental impact assessment (EIA) is also required for the licence, this must comply with the public consultation requirements under Part 7 of the Environmental Protection Act, which implements the Espoo Convention and the EU’s EIA Directive.
Apart from the statutory public consultation requirements, the ANVS and the Belgian Federal Agency for Nuclear Control (FANC) have agreements in place on transboundary information and public consultation on licence amendments for nuclear power plants in the border region. These agreements apply even if an environmental impact assessment is not required for the licence amendment. People living near the plant (within a 20-kilometre radius) will be actively informed by the ANVS and the FANC of any licensing procedures in the neighbouring country and the opportunities for public consultation.