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.
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)