The True Cost of Nuclear Energy

Some think that nuclear energy is an important source of electricity and ought to be part of every nation’s energy generating system. Others think that nuclear energy is too dangerous to use and we should decommission nuclear power plants all over the world. I tend towards the latter view, but accept that there may be some merit in the former view. Whatever view you hold about nuclear energy everyone who thinks about it agrees that there must be a safe and perfect way of storing nuclear waste to prevent the waste being used for weapons and to prevent the waste leaking into the atmosphere or the sea or the land where it will cause harm and damage to human health and to the health of the ecosystem where the waste is stored.

There seems no safe way to dispose of waste except by storing it. I know of no plans to send the waste far into space or into the sun so when we create nuclear waste as a by-product of generating electricity through the use of uranium and similar fuels we are stuck with the waste on this planet until the waste uranium decays into lead, which process of transmutation takes, depending on the waste, somewhere between a thousand years or many hundreds of thousands of years. As the waste decays it becomes less radioactive but that process also takes thousands of years before all the waste generated becomes safe.

Stored nuclear waste is hot. It needs to be stored in places where it can be kept cool, because overheated nuclear waste is a hazard in itself.

None of what I have written is unknown; these are the risks that nuclear power plant operators have to manage and deal with as a condition of being permitted to generate electricity from uranium. You would have imagined that any government with permits nuclear power plants, having at the foremost of its mind the safety of its citizens and its duty to protect them, would be keen to not only make regulations about nuclear waste but to stringently enforce them. However, such a concept should remain firmly  in your imagination..

The National Audit Commission of the United Kingdom has been looking at nuclear waste at the Sellafield site, and its findings (published at  http://www.nao.org.uk/default.aspx) do not make happy reading.

It seems that for the past fifty years Sellafield’s operators have been treating nuclear waste rather more casually than the circumstances require. Much nuclear waste has been stored in run down buildings and the operator has failed to develop a long term plan for disposing of waste. Costs of decommissioning are spiralling out of control as the plant has now built up enough medium and high level nuclear waste to fill 27 Olympic sized swimming pools, not that anyone in their right mind would want to do this. Some of the buildings which hold nuclear waste have been allowed to deteriorate so that they now pose a risk to people and the environment.

The life time costs for cleaning up Sellafield are, according to the findings of the Audit Commission around £67 billion. (If this money was funded by the domestic electricity user over the next five years it would add around £300 a year to the electricity bill of each household.

In fact, nuclear power plant decommissioning is paid for not by the operators of the power station but by the taxpayer through the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, which gets it money to reimburse the decommissioning costs from the Department of Energy and Climate Change. The operator that produces the electricity and resells it pays nothing towards decommissioning.

The National Audit Commission reports that so far the taxpayer has received poor value for money in the decommissioning expenditure. That does not surprise me; I get surprised when the taxpayer gets good value for money.

The National Audit Commission has made recommendations and I expect that they will eventually be implemented. Sellafield is the largest nuclear power station in the United Kingdom. I cannot find out precisely but I expect it generates about 10% of Britain’s electricity that comes from nuclear power plants. If that is so, multiply the £67 billion by ten to get a reasonable idea of the lifetime generating cost of nuclear energy in decommissioning and waste treatment terms.

The cost of decommissioning nuclear power stations and disposing of the waste that they create puts into proper context the very small amounts of money spent subsidising renewable energy. If renewable energy was subsidised by the public purse on the same scale as nuclear energy, we would all have renewable energy and no one would bother with nuclear energy, because clean renewable energy comes without risk. The figures for simply disposing of nuclear waste makes the Renewable Heat Incentive, coming shortly, look like a real bargain for the nation.

Nuclear energy is only possible because the taxpayer has to pick up these hidden and often ignore future costs, and much of these costs will have to be paid by people you are not yet born.

3 Responses

  1. Windmill energy is only possible because the taxpayer has to pick up these hidden and often ignore future costs, and much of these costs will have to be paid by people you are not yet born

  2. Germany is currently stockpiling recycled glass in huge open cast and dissused mines.The nuclear issue is clear enough, the nuclear waste could be stored in glass coffins which would not decay for millenia, this is what I think they are gearing towards, its not a new technique, uranium glass has been around for hundreds of years and never killed a single person who handlled it. As the wate is decaying it could be used to heat millions of dwellings as James Lovelock has already explained and has designs of such apparatus, yet we are blinded by false sciences.

    Smaller nuclear power stations could be used in key positions and nearer to people and be much easier to control, all of the American aircraft carriers are powered by such devices and need only be refulled every 25 years or so, these giants of the seas have survived much more dangerous positions without a single accident.

    We must begin to regain the minds of the people and polloticians if we are to remain free of the devils in disguise, who are pushing and bribing the whole towards the true amegeddon of our childrens future. Once the polloticians have lost their fears of the cabal running the show its all over for the single entity, they cannot destroy the whole system from within by getting rid of them all.

    The entire essentials must be re-nationalised and run by the people at cost to their whole, this way everyone gets free energy, all power is for and by the people, not for the few who don’t give a dam if your Granny dies of cold all alone.

    Like the song, We are all someones daughter and someones son, so why volaunteer to register and send your children to die at the end of a barrel of a gun, that the same people manufacture.

    We are aproaching the reminder of what happens to our childerick when we stop truly caring for our offspring, and in a national day of rememberance we remember, but have forgot how to be truly human and care for our nuclear familiy.

    We all know what to do, but are in a pictorial type of fear, that the same cabal potray via the MSM, turn off your TV sets for a while and you will begin to see the true picture and another world that surrounds us all.

  3. Here in the UK, we have 35,000 tonnes of depleted uranium, and 55 tonnes of weapon’s grade plutonium. Along with plenty of other radioactive spent nuclear fuel, this wonderful energy-resource can supply all of the electrical energy required in the UK for 500 years, without mining another gram of uranium – energy security or what? We used to call it waste too, but how wrong can the uninitiated be?

    We’ll be deploying the first GE Hitachi PRISM Power Block soon, to start on our plutonium stockpile and then, who knows? We may get a fleet of them to provide all of our electricity and lead the world into the inevitable era of worldwide breeder reactor deployment.

    Try this blog to find out more: http://prismsuk.blogspot.co.uk/

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