Which banks provide funding for the nuclear industry? Find out at www.nuclearbanks.org
Costing estimates from the nuclear industry are unreliable and unverified
The nuclear industry has been hugely subsidised. Nuclear power is currently more expensive than wind power in the UK and USA.
The factors that determine costs include:
- the capital costs of reactor construction
- the time taken to build the reactor
- the interest rates associated with project financing
- the reactor’s efficiency and performance
- the costs of adequate liability insurance relating to accidents and terrorist acts- the required rate of return on capital investment
- the costs of reactor decommissioning
- the costs of radioactive waste storage and disposal
The nuclear lobby distorts the picture, when comparing nuclear costs to those of other energy sources – by over-stating the likely performance, understating time to build and costs of nuclear. Costs of accidents and limited insurance are understated. The government bears the cost of waste disposal, and costs of shutting down reactors are unpredictable.
Costs of the industry in the UK and USA have been very high. Predictions of cheaper costs in other countries are dubious, and often based on an unreasonably low interest rate. “Cheaper capital costs” are often based on costs of past construction, rather than of today’s. The huge government subsidies are not included when estimating costs. The much-touted new nuclear reactor for Finland is owned by a consortium and is 40% government-owned, and will sell to its consortium, and get finance at low interest, not market interest rates
The “front end”, the “central” and the “back end” The nuclear lobby has successfully confined discussion of nuclear power costs to the “central” cost of building nuclear reactors. Even anti-nuclear activists concentrate on this.
But – what about the Hidden Costs? – at the “Front end” and the “Back end”
1. The Front end” - Uranium mining. – Who pays for the perpetual cleanup of radioactive tailings from uranium mining and milling? (e.g. uranium tailings mountain above) Who pays for the care of miners and community members afflicted by cancer from this radiation? How much money is lost to the community from the shortened work-life of these cancer victims, and of their family carers.? The loss of valuable land for agriculture? The loss of fresh water, now polluted?
Even where governments recognise that there is a cost for uranium mine cleanup – well, (A) the mining company has long disappeared, and (B) – not all affected areas are even recognised.:
“Abandoned Mine Lands Cost In 1998, DOE testified to congress that it would cost approximately $2.3 billion (in 1998 dollar value) to clean up the uranium ore processing facilities nationwide under UMTRCA. Because there are other uranium mines and overburden sites not included in this estimate, the total cost of uranium site cleanup is expected to be much higher than this limited estimate.”
“Decommissioning” – i.e burying the body of the radioactive dead nuclear reactor. – As decommissioning expenses will be incurred long after the plant is established, decommissioning costs represent a future financial liability.“In France, decommissioning of Brennilis Nuclear Power Plant, a fairly small 70 MW power plant, already cost 480 million euros (20x the estimate costs) and is still pending after 20 years….n the UK, decommissioning of Windscale Advanced Cooled Reactor (WAGR), a 32 MW power plant, cost 117 million euros.In Germany, decommissioning of Niederaichbach nuclear power plant, a 100MW power plant, amounted to more than 90 million euros.
Lack of Decommissioning Funds In Europe there is considerable concern on the funds necessary to finance final decommissioning. In many countries either the funds do not appear sufficient to pay the financial decommissioning, and in other countries the (substantial) funds are being used (too) freely for activities other than decommissioning, putting the funds at risk, and distorting competition with parties who do not have nuclear decommissioning funds available”. Nuclear decommissioning – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Nuclear waste transport, disposal, and security. Even if no new reactors are built, getting rid of the country’s nuclear waste will cost $96.2 billion and require a major expansion of the planned Nevada waste dump beyond limits imposed by Congress, the Energy Department said Tuesday……….The $96.2 billion — in 2007 dollars not accounting for future inflation — includes $13.5 billion already spent on the Yucca project, $54.8 billion for construction and operation over 150 years and closing costs anticipated in 2113. … Report: Nuclear waste disposal will cost US $96B – USATODAY.com150 years! But who pays for the maintenance and security of those wastes for the next several thousand years?
Security: Radioactive wastes must be kept secure – from accidents, natural events, terrorists. Who pays for this guarding of nuclear wastes over thousands of years?
Well it is impossible for anyone to estimate the real costs of nuclear power, as only a narrow range of costs are discussed, even where the nuclear industry is supposedly privately owned.
1. The nuclear weapons industry is so connected with nuclear power, and the costs on the nuclear weapons industry are huge.
2. Where the nuclear industry is state owned - e.g. in France, Russia, China, South Korea, taxation, and the costs of electricity are manipulated, and figures given out for nuclear costs are not really reliable.
Secrecy about the nuclear industry is essential anyway, for security reasons. But it is also convenient, as no-one really knows how much it costs for state-owned nuclear facilities to manage nuclear waste. Well, there are ‘cheap’ options used, as we learn from time, with nuclear waste dumping occurring secretly, and without regard for the environment or the people, (usually poor communities, indigenous and rural people.) Eventually someone has to pay for the long-term costs.
Russia: “….The central problem is that the political and heavily militarized economic system of the USSR provided “no way to accurately measure these costs,” even throughout Soviet history, the issue of defense spending was at the heart of civilian-military relations:….much of the data relating to defense industry were not even collected, and when they were, they were not shared with civilian planners and policy makers……..“What is notable is how little substantial new information has been obtained about the defense-industrial complex, even after the collapse of the Soviet government..”….”
.…the near total lack of environmental concerns (as can be seen in the widespread practice of injecting high-level radioactive wastes directly into the ground or dumping fully fueled naval propulsion reactors at sea) would have reduced the cost of production but resulted in a potentially grave environmental legacy, which continues to have serious repercussions for the peoples of the former Soviet Union and, in the case of sea-based disposal, Norway….”..http://www.brookings.edu/projects/archive/nucweapons/appendixd.aspx
China: “…....Southwest China Disposal SiteA temporary storage site for nuclear waste that is capable of handling 1,000 barrels of nuclear waste annually was established in spring 2000 in [earthquake zone] Sichuan Province...” .Spent Fuel Waste Storage/Management
“…..Disposing of the 1000 tonnes per year of radioactive waste produced by the expanding industry is rather a headache but there are plans to expand a small facility in western Gansu province to deal with much of the spent fuel, although there are fears that in fact it will be the poorest areas that are forced to accommodate the waste in some form or another…”.
South Korea: ” …..Russian and Chinese firms hope to follow the Koreans’ lead. Suddenly the incumbents are confronted by emerging-market “national champions” with the full backing of their governments—an invaluable asset in a high-liability business like nuclear power….” http://www.economist.com/business-finance/displaystory.cfm?story_id=15457220
UK, .Little is known about the cost of the British program as well, although the unit cost of some weapons systems is available.7 The continuing restrictions under the Official Secrets Act make it difficult to ascertain costs in truly comprehensive way….
France: The historical costs associated with the French nuclear arsenal are likewise murky…
Too little is known about the arsenals of Israel, India and Pakistan to include them here…http://www.brookings.edu/projects/archive/nucweapons/appendixd.aspx
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