Those Nuclear Decommissioning Numbers

Excellent little comment at CiF:

Electricity Generated by Nuclear Power 1970-2006 = 2,080,435,274 MWh

Estimated Decomissioning Cost = 85,000,0000,000

Cost per MWh = 2.5 pence per MWh

Cost per kWh = 0.25 pence per kWh

Sure 85 billion is a big number but we got alot of (carbon free) electricity over the last 40 years.

And of course those numbers include the research and development costs of the nuclear industry as well: they\’re vastly higher than the costs of a new generation of plants.

11 thoughts on “Those Nuclear Decommissioning Numbers”

  1. They would be good… If the commenter had done his sums right!

    It actually works out to about 4.086 pence per kWh.

  2. 4p per mWh isn’t it?

    Why does this include the R&D costs? Does it include operating costs over that period as well?

  3. No, it’s 40quid per mWh… 85 billion smackeroonees divided by 2 point something billion mWh.

    I’m astonished that Mr Worstall didn’t notice… Shame on you Timothy! 🙂

    Tim adds: I get very very lost when we start talkiing about energy numbers. No anchor point….I know roughly what the size of the economy is, know roughly the size of a foorball field, know roughly what average income is etc, so can usually tell just by “taste” whether a number looks about right. With energy, not so.

  4. Whoops I’m as bad as Tim – yes it’s £40 per MWh which is 4p per kWH. Although I get a slighthly higher production from the nuclear plants at 2.6 tWh.

    Does that make you change your mind on the economics Tim?

    Tim adds: No, not massively. For the construction costs and the decommissioning costs (and recall, these decomm costs are for the entirety of the nuclear programme, design, experimentation, Sellafield, bomb programmes and everything, inventing civil nuclear power) are just about all the costs there are to nuclear. Uranium and the staffing of the plants are trivial in comparison. Bit like solar in the economics. Huge set up costs (and with nuclear it’s the combination of set up and tear down) and runnig costs are a triviality.

  5. Leaving aside the figures for a mo’ – and I sympathise with the difficulties: I’m not anti-nuclear, not by a long chalk, but in the interests of balance people who claim nuclear power is “carbon free” should be stamped on the same way as people who say wind turbines provide “carbon free” power, or worse, who claim that turbines provide “free power”.

  6. Another way of looking at nuclear clean-up costs is to get them in some kind of perspective by looking at clean-up costs of more mundane items.

    In current plans, the UK nuclear decommissioning programme is spread out over 135 years, starting in 2010 and finishing in 2145. (this timescale is rarely mentioned, probably because the Green lobby would like to substantially reduce it.) So £85 billion over 135 years is a rate of £630 million per year.

    Now that doesn’t look bad if you compare it with the cost of UK chewing gum clean-up which is currently £150 million per year.
    http://www.tvlsn.org/tvls/index.php?p=news.tem&rn=anej6maa

    or UK graffiti clean-up which is currently £1 billion per year.
    http://www.encams.org/campaigns/main2.asp?pageid=34

    Another thing about nuclear decommissioning costs which isn’t generally appreciated is that the very high cost is due to carrying out in a way that satisfies the Green lobby. The preferred way of doing decommissioning in the UK and other Western countries is to completely dismantle the facility and return the site to ‘greenfield site status’. If the Green lobby didn’t exist, nuclear facility sites would probably just be abandoned (the sites are often in out-of the-way locations) and maybe concreted over and covered in mounds of earth. There is a lot of potential to reduce the decommissioning costs.

  7. Of course, we spend nothing on cleaning up the large amounts of radioactivity emitted by coal-burning plants. We scatter it to the winds or leave it in the ash.

  8. I’m a bit sceptical that local authorities spend £150m on cleaning up chewing gum – the statistic is bandied about a lot but one source I saw said ‘and Westminster Council alone spends £90,000’, which would mean they spend a lot less per resident than the rest of the country, which seems a bit implausible. Also cleaning chewing gum also cleans the street.

    But anyway won’t a new generation of power plants need cleanup too, which would add to these annual figures – they’re not a one-off?

  9. Also Tim could you explain this:

    those numbers include the research and development costs of the nuclear industry as well

    so are you saying the £85bn or £72bn or £56bn (depending on how you measure it) includes the budget for designing an atom bomb?

  10. completely dismantle the facility and return the site to ‘greenfield site status’.

    But anyway won’t a new generation of power plants need cleanup too, which would add to these annual figures – they’re not a one-off?

    We could avoid (or permanently delay) a lot of cleanup costs if we keep building new stations on the sites of the old ones, adding to the savings in costs associated with grid infrastructure, planning permission, security, etc.

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