Nuclear energy: The difference between costs and prices

At the request of WNF a review has been carried out to assess how the direct and indirect costs of nuclear power compare with those of other forms of power generation. The main aim of this exercise was to examine the truth of claims that nuclear power is ‘cheap’ and can make a significant contribution to the Netherlands’ energy supply in the absence of government support. The study shows that, despite its very low marginal costs, nuclear power is more expensive than most other forms of power generation if construction costs (under liberalised market conditions), safety, accident liability and environmental impacts are factored in. A key item that has been included in the present study are the costs of nuclear accidents, which until now have been borne by the taxpayer. If these costs were allocated to the aggregate output of nuclear power plants this would lead to a price increase of 2.3 euro cent per kWh. Because of the high construction costs and the substantial risk of budget exceedance, it is unlikely that private parties will be able to establish the business case for a new nuclear plant without support from the government. Every single nuclear construction project to date has been facilitated by some form of government support.

Although certain renewable generating technologies (such as offshore wind) are not yet competitive with nuclear if all the costs are factored in, renewable forms of power generation show a strong learning curve and a declining cost price, while the cost of nuclear power has in fact risen during recent decades.