Tuesday 5 February 2013

So the truth is out on nuclear decommissioning. The bill for cleaning up Sellafield alone (so that excludes the actual power stations themselves) is likely to hit £70 billion and every project is late so who knows what the final bill will be. And that is only Sellafield, it does not cover the cost of decommissioning the nuclear stations themselves or any other facilities.


So the interesting question is how much per MWh of power ever generated by nuclear does this represent. If we take the capacity of all the Magnox, AGRs and fast breeder reactors that ever put power into the grid and multiply by a load factor of 80% (which any study of the history of the UK nuclear power industry will quickly suggest is optimistic), we end up with about 3,500 TWh generated. Thus the Sellafield decommissioning cost is about £20/MWh compared to the wholesale price of electricity of about £45/MWh. This assumes all operating plants operate to the end of their currently declared lifetime. Note, the £20/MWh is a straight subsidy and does not affect the wholesale price. It also of course ignores the original subsidies in developing and building the plant in the first place.


Putting aside any argument about nuclear safety this really highlights the true cost of nuclear power. It is totally uneconomic and all the money spent on it (other than decommissioning which of course we are now locked into), should be spent on demand management and energy efficiency which is proven to have a much lower cost per MWh delivered.

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Dr Steven Fawkes

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