At Laser-Laboratorium Gottingen, the performance of UV optical components for high power excimer lasers is characterized, aiming to employ testing procedures that meet industrial conditions, i.e. very high pulse numbers and repetition rates. Measurements include determination of single and multiple pulse damage thresholds, absorption loss and degradation of optical properties under long-term irradiation. Absorption of excimer laser pulses is investigated by a calorimetric technique which provides greatly enhanced sensitivity compared to transmissive measurements. Thus, it allows determining both single and two photon absorption coefficients at intensities of standard excimer lasers. Results of absorption measurements at 248 nm are presented for bare substrates (CaF2, BaF2, z-cut quartz and fused silica). UV calorimetry is also employed to investigate laser induced aging phenomena, e.g. color center formation in fused silica. A separation of transient and cumulative effects as a function of intensity is achieved, giving insight into various loss mechanisms.