Renewables Update

Important for Children in Japanese

15 May 2014 Tomas Kåberger, Chair of Executive Board, Japan Renewable Energy Foundation

The costs of nuclear waste are one of the most important aspects of the competitiveness of nuclear power. Experience shows that it is easy to underestimate the costs as they occur long after nuclear power plants are started. Some decades ago, such underestimates of costs may have been the result of incompetence. With the experience gathered in the world, it is more difficult to pretend not to know real costs. In countries with long experience of nuclear power, waste management has started for real, and costs are becoming visible and undeniable.

Great Britain may claim to host the world’s first commercial nuclear power reactor, started in 1956. Half a century later, Great Britain also faces some of the most obvious nuclear waste management problems. It is not only a matter of scientific challenges, and potential public health effects on future generations. As clearly described in a recent issue of The Economist (April 5th, 2014) it is also a matter of costs, socialized costs. It is now cost not paid by nuclear power companies but by tax payers’ money.

It is unfair that the costs are not paid by the nuclear power companies. But understanding the magnitude of the costs makes the injustice even worse. In Britain the Sellafield installation include earlier handling of nuclear fuel as well as the most recent nuclear fuel reprocessing plant. Cleaning up the contamination at this site is managed by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority. Cleaning the Sellafield site alone is now estimated to cost more than 70 billion pounds, some 12 trillion yen.

If this amount of money was invested in wind power plants, the annual electricity production from these plants would be in the order of 125-150 TWh per year. That is more than all nuclear reactors in Britain together have ever managed to produce in a year.

Often, the back-end costs of energy is dealt with on its’ own. Separate from the cost of building power plants and the costs of fuel and operation. But just as it is misleading to assess fossil fuel costs disregarding the costs of air pollution is it grossly misleading to assess nuclear power without including real costs of nuclear waste management. Failing to do so results in heavy burdens being put on future generations. Any parent would be reluctant to fail in this respect.

And who would like to become a parent in a country where the government deliberately produce such harm to coming generations?