French governmental agency puts price tag on nuclear disaster
Yesterday, Eurosafe published a report by France's Institute of Nuclear Safety (IRSN) that estimated the cost of a nuclear disaster in France at a whopping 20 percent of GDP. Meanwhile, the price tag for Fukushima continues to rise, and another French organization says France has put up artificial roadblocks that slow down the development of wind power. Recent news from other countries also suggests that nuclear faces a dismal future.
On Tuesday, TEPCO – the company that operates the nuclear power plant in Fukushima – announced that it will receive the equivalent of an additional 7.5 billion dollars to compensate victims of the nuclear disaster. The total price tag in compensation now stands at roughly 35 billion dollars. Roughly 160,000 people were evacuated from the area. Note that this figure only applies to compensation for victims, not the actual cleanup of the site or losses incurred by the company. In November, TEPCO said all of these costs could double.
What would such a disaster cost in Europe? This week, a French governmental agency and Eurosafe published a concise seven-page report in English (PDF) that put the overall price tag at up to 430 billion euros, equivalent to around 20 percent of French GDP and "more than 10 years' economic growth," as the authors put it. Granted, that figure represents the higher end of the calculation, but the disaster at Fukushima – which is apparently going to cost around 50-60 billion euros – also occurred in a relatively sparsely populated part of Japan, a country that is admittedly densely packed. Were such a disaster to directly affect large conglomerations such as Osaka, Kyoto, and Tokyo, the figures in the French report seem within reach.
The nuclear report was published just after French Wind Energy Association FEE voiced its own criticism of the "legal wrangling" that is artificially slowing down wind power installations in the country. The FEE reiterated that the growth rate of 750 megawatts in 2012 is far behind the 1,200/1,300 megawatts the country needs to put into the ground to meet its target for 2020.
In related nuclear news, a US nuclear plant operator has announced it lacks around a billion dollars in funding for the dismantling of three of its nuclear plants, with the bill likely to be passed on to taxpayers. And in China, nuclear is apparently also turning out to be more expensive than projected, as one journalist explains in China Dialogue. The Chinese have been banking on outdated nuclear technology, but there turns out to be no international market for such plants, so China is having trouble exporting its nuclear technology. Unfortunately, the cost of the latest nuclear technology continues to rise, potentially making it too expensive for China.
It seems that nuclear is not only increasingly unbankable in the West, but also in Southeast Asia. Or, as China Dialogue puts it, "Ultimately, nuclear power can only survive if it is competitive with the alternatives. Unless the trend of sharply rising real costs can be reversed, this will not be the case." (Craig Morris)