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Politicians and public not keen for new nuclear reactors, as problems of the old ones multiply

The nuclear industry has a simple solution to the problem of old reactors: new reactors. But the battles over ageing and decommissioned reactors − and the raiding of taxpayers’ pockets to cover shortfalls − will make it that much more difficult to convince politicians and the public to support new reactors.

nukes-sad-U-turn to nowhere: Nuclear’s dire outlook U-turn to nowhere: Nuclear’s dire outlook Business Spectator, 27 January 2015 Jim Green “……..The elephant in the room − ageing reactors The problem of ageing reactors came into focus in 2014 − and will remain in focus for decades to come with the average age of the world’s power reactors now 29 years and steadily increasing.

Problems with ageing reactors include:

– an increased risk of accidents (and associated problems such as generally inadequate accident liability arrangements);

– an increased rate of unplanned reactors outages (at one point last year, less than half of the UK’s nuclear capacity was available due to multiple outages);

– costly refurbishments;

– debates over appropriate safety standards for reactors designed decades ago; and

– the uncertainties and costs associated with reactor decommissioning and long-term nuclear waste management.

Greenpeace highlighted the problems associated with ageing reactors with the release of a detailed report last year,and emphasised the point by breaking into six ageing European nuclear plants on March 5, 2014.The International Energy Agency (IEA) said in its World Energy Outlook 2014 report: “A wave of retirements of ageing nuclear reactors is approaching: almost 200 of the 434 reactors operating at the end of 2013 are retired in the period to 2040, with the vast majority in the European Union, the United States, Russia and Japan.”

IEA chief economist Fatih Birol said: “Worldwide, we do not have much experience and I am afraid we are not well-prepared in terms of policies and funds which are devoted to decommissioning. A major concern for all of us is how we are going to deal with this massive surge in retirements in nuclear power plants.”The World Energy Outlook 2014 report estimates the cost of decommissioning reactors to be more than $US100 billion up to 2040, adding that “considerable uncertainties remain about these costs, reflecting the relatively limited experience to date in dismantling and decontaminating reactors and restoring sites for other uses.”

The IEA’s head of power generation analysis, Marco Baroni, said that even excluding waste disposal costs, the final cost could be as much as twice as high as the $100 billion estimate, and that decommissioning costs per reactor can vary by a factor of four.

Baroni said the issue was not the decommissioning cost per reactor but “whether enough funds have been set aside to provide for it.” Evidence of inadequate decommissioning funds is mounting. To give just one example, Entergy estimates a cost of $US1.24 billion to decommission Vermont Yankee, but the company’s decommissioning trust fund for the plant − $US670 million − is barely half that amount.

Michael Mariotte, president of the US Nuclear Information and Resource Service, noted in a recent article: “Entergy, for example, has only about half the needed money in its decommissioning fund (and even so still found it cheaper to close the reactor than keep it running); repeat that across the country with multiple and larger reactors and the shortfalls could be stunning. Expect heated battles in the coming years as nuclear utilities try to push the costs of the decommissioning fund shortfalls onto ratepayers.”

The nuclear industry has a simple solution to the problem of old reactors: new reactors. But the battles over ageing and decommissioned reactors − and the raiding of taxpayers’ pockets to cover shortfalls − will make it that much more difficult to convince politicians and the public to support new reactors.

Jim Green is the national nuclear campaigner with Friends of the Earth, Australia.https://www.businessspectator.com.au/article/2015/1/28/energy-markets/u-turn-nowhere-nuclears-dire-outlook

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January 30, 2015 - Posted by | 2 WORLD, business and costs

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