Nuclear risk economics

- Einstein's reaction upon learning of the Hiroshima Nuclear bombing in WWII.

What is the true cost of nuclear power - when you include the risk of accidents?
In 2010 India made private companies liable for these risks - which revealed that the technology is commercially unviable:

The Indian law limits the operator’s liability to Rs 1,500 crore  but in case of an accident, victims could find shelter in the law of Torts that can potentially lead to unlimited damages to be claimed from equipment suppliers.  John Flannery, outgoing President and Chief Executive Officer of GE in India said GE will rather give up business than play within India’s civil nuclear liability rules.

“If the [civil nuclear] liability law stays the way it is, we won’t pursue the business.”

Flannery knows other companies, French and Russian, are nosing ahead in the race but points out that they are backed by the government.

He is very clear about his own: “We are a private enterprise and we just can’t take that kind of risk profiles.”

GE's position tells the truth about the cost of nuclear risk that all the pro-nuclear industry reports will hide.
I bet the French and Russian Treasuries aren't happy about being exposed to these risks (hopefully GE's position will wake up their governments to the risk).
Now in 2017, France's new President Macron has also commented skeptically on the cost of nuclear, saying, “Nobody knows the total cost for nuclear energy. I was minister for industry and I could not tell you.”  
And though he is "generally considered to be pro-nuclear", it seems France is committed to a gradual phase-out of its reliance on uneconomic, subsidised nuclear power.

I think an insurer would take a hard-nosed look at the industry track record (number of global accidents per power station years of operation), rather than swallow claims about the latest technology being much safer - I recall they said that in the past about the Fukishima technology, which, 6 years after the initial 2011 disaster, continues to pollute the entire Pacific Ocean and still poses an extreme risk (with record levels of radiation causing continued reactor damage & even killing clean-up robots).
That disaster was caused by a 45m high tsunami, but compare that to the following tsunamis listed in this video:
  • 30m, Indian ocean, 2004
  • 85m, Japan, 1971
  • 100m, Japan, 1972
  • 250m, Italy, 1963 (which demolished a dam & 5 villages)
  • 524m, Alaska, 1958 (the most destructive tsunami ever recorded)
Given past disaster sites at Windscale and Chernobyl have still not been made safe after more than 50 years, it seems very likely to me that another larger tsunami could obliterate Fukishima before it can be made safe.

For an objective risk assessment on a global scale, see the paper attached below for my ball-park estimate of the risk and cost of nuclear power accidents and insurance - which seems likely to be over several $/W, thus making nuclear power uneconomic compared to current solar photovoltaic plus battery systems, even if the nuclear power plant, uranium fuel & operating costs were free!

I also estimate that any significant expansion of nuclear power (to combat global warming) would almost guarantee a very serious accident within the next 10-30 years, and (ignoring unproven & even more expensive 'fast-breeder' reactors) would also deplete global uranium resources within the same period (before the planned lifetime of new plants built!).
And this doesn't even cover the cost of decommissioning and handling of radioactive fuel waste for hundreds of years to come!

What total environmental and economic madness the nuclear power industry is!
Glad to see the US, France & others are now abandoning it, and that increasingly (except when it's propped up by subsidies from states with political/military motives), renewables are leaving nuclear behind, where it belongs.

David Thorp,
13 Nov 2016, 18:58
David Thorp,
13 Feb 2017, 01:31