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French court finds nuclear too expensive

In a review of the cost of nuclear power commission on May 17, 2011, the French Court of Auditors found that the cost of nuclear power in France is currently above the rate charged to consumers, confirming charges that France subsidizes its power sector. The wind sector has responded by pointing out that wind power is cheaper than new nuclear installations.

 - EWEA's online cost calculator helps you compare the cost of wind power to conventional electricity (see link below). Source: EWEA website
EWEA's online cost calculator helps you compare the cost of wind power to conventional electricity (see link below). Source: EWEA website

The 446-page report, which is only available in French (PDF) and does not have an executive summary, was designed mainly to answer the question of whether "all costs are taken into account" in the pricing of nuclear power in France. The answer is no.

The study found that the cost of constructing a nuclear plant has risen from 1.07 million euros (adjusted for inflation as of 2010) per megawatt in 1978 at the Fessenheim plant on the border to Germany, which is the oldest nuclear reactor currently in operation in France, to 1.37 million euros per megawatt for the Civaux plant constructed in 2002, with the average cost of a megawatt of nuclear capacity for France's current 58 reactors coming in at 1.25 million euros.

But going forward, next-generation nuclear plants will be much more costly, new safety requirements in the wake of the disaster at Fukushima will make revamped old plants much more expensive. The estimated costs for the second EPR plant currently under construction in Flamanville comes in at 3.7 million euros per megawatt; construction began in 2006 and was to be finished this year, but completion has been delayed until 2016, and costs have risen by more than 50 percent.

Overall, the Court estimates that a megawatt-hour of nuclear power made in France costs around 49.5 euros. As French daily Figaro reported, the costs entailed for additional safety requirements in reaction to the disaster in Fukushima will probably increase that price by another 10 percent to around 54 euros. The paper also points out that the estimation of 49.5 euros is more than 10 euros greater than what the Champsaur Commission estimated a year before; based on that estimate, the price of power was set at 42 euros per megawatt-hour, roughly a sixth below the apparent actual cost estimated by the Court of Auditors.

The European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) reacted to the study last month in its blog by pointing out that the cost of nuclear is set to skyrocket in France, partly because "22 [of France's 58, ed.] reactors will reach theirs life limit by 2022." By 2020, EWEA estimates that nuclear power will cost 102 euros per megawatt-hour, compared to only 58 euros for onshore wind and 75 for offshore. EWEA also has a cost calculator online. (Craig Morris)

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5 Comments on "French court finds nuclear too expensive "

  1. Craig Morris - 01.04.2012, 11:18 Uhr (Report comment)

    Cyril, if you don't trust the wind sector, why are you reading this website?
    Would you trust the nuclear sector? Because RWE's CEO recently stated that new nuclear wil only pay for itself at 10 cents per kWh -- above the FITs for onshore wind practicaly everywhere (source in German):

  2. Cyril R. - 30.03.2012, 16:31 Uhr (Report comment)

    And as for asking the cost of nuclear from a wind energy association... that is like asking a coal association what wind costs!! Of course they will overstate costs! Because they want to promote coal!
    I rated this article as extremely not helpful. Sorry, but it is much too biased and simplistic.

  3. Cyril R. - 30.03.2012, 16:28 Uhr (Report comment)

    France gets 80% of its electricity from nuclear. It is powering its country with it.
    What is the cost of powering France with wind (or wind and solar)? Energy storage is very expensive.
    It is clearly not fair to compare per MWh costs for nuclear with wind. Industries and countries can be powered with nuclear powerplants with very little need for energy storage, and no need for natural gas backup.
    Please compare the cost of wind including suffient energy storage to replace nuclear in France.

  4. Craig Morris - 19.03.2012, 12:19 Uhr (Report comment)

    Brian, thanks for the comment. The phrase it should have read "roughly a sixth" I changed the text to reflect that. And of course, "below" should have been "above."

  5. Brian Ballek - 19.03.2012, 12:10 Uhr (Report comment)

    Two parts of the text are confusing. The summary paragraph says the cost of nuclear is *below* the price to consumers, confirming that French nuclear power is subsidized. Subsidies would imply that the cost of nuclear power is *above* the price charged to consumers.
    Also there must be a mistake in the phrase "roughly a six below the apparent actual cost". 6 cents? 6 percent? Neither seems to pencil out.

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