Commenting on his new paper titled “Nuclear Safety and Nuclear Economics,” Mark Cooper said: “Before Fukushima, the mythical ‘nuclear renaissance‘ had already proven to be a bubble with the air rapidly leaking out of it. Fukushima will make it even more difficult to inflate. Fukushima is magnifying the economic problems that the ‘nuclear renaissance’ faced, which are the very problems that that have plagued nuclear power throughout its history.
Nuclear power suffered from high cost and continuous cost escalation, high risk and uncertainty long before Fukushima. The nuclear reactor disaster at Fukushima will increase the cost and further undermine the economic viability of nuclear power in any country that conducts such a review.
The Japanese government has recently estimated that the cost of power from nuclear reactors will be 50 percent higher than estimated seven years ago. My analysis shows this increase is consistent with the impact of Three Mile Island and Chernobyl.”
History has shown that each major nuclear accident has caused a re-examination of the risks of nuclear power leading to more stringent safety requirement and higher costs.
The failures that led to the ongoing catastrophe at Fukushima are being scrutinized in the United States and other countries. An analysis of the current re-evaluations of nuclear power and a comparison with the substance and economic impact of past, post-accident reviews provides important insights into the prospects of new nuclear reactor construction in the decade after Fukushima.
Before Fukushima, the mythical “nuclear renaissance” had already proven to be a bubble with the air rapidly leaking out of it. Fukushima will make it even more difficult to inflate.
A new paper presented by Mark Cooper, senior fellow for economic analysis, Institute for Energy and the Environment, Vermont Law School, suggests that the cost of nuclear power, which already had risen sharply in 2010 and 2011 before the Fukushima disaster, could climb another 50 percent due to tighter safety oversight and regulatory delays in the wake of the reactor calamity in Japan.
The Cooper paper is available online at http://www.markcooperresearch.com/Nuclear-Safety-and-Nuclear-Economics-Post-Fukushima.pdf .
Former Nuclear Regulatory Commission member Peter Bradford, currently adjunct professor on Nuclear Power and Public Policy, Vermont Law School, and former chair of the New York and Maine state utility regulatory commissions, said:
“With the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s recent approval of the design of the AP-1000 reactor and the anticipated approval of specific projects in Georgia and South Carolina, much is being written about a ‘nuclear revival.’
This is an important moment to compare what is really likely to happen over the next 10 years with the industry’s expectations when the ‘nuclear renaissance’ was first announced a decade ago.
When that comparison is performed properly, it becomes clear that we are witnessing not a revival but a collapse in expectations for new reactor construction. The two forthcoming projects are all that remain of a thirty-one reactor fantasy fleet that was said to constitute the real nuclear renaissance as recently as early 2009.
It is important to understand that this collapse was well underway before the accident at Fukushima. It was the result of nuclear power’s high costs compared to other alternatives.
Fukushima and the unseemly effort of four NRC commissioners to oust the chair do nothing to enhance the appeal of nuclear power, but even if these factors vanished tomorrow, the pace of new reactor construction in the U.S. would not increase at all.”
Fukushima has stimulated vigorous reviews around the world in part because it is severe (the worst accident affecting a nuclear reactor in a market economy) and in part because it occurred in a nation that was assumed to have a high standard of safety and superb technical expertise.
Although the technical challenges are different with each accident, the challenges perceived by those responsible for nuclear safety in the wake of the Fukushima accident are quite substantial and reflect general historic themes.
insufficient backup systems,
inadequate contingency plans, and
Even more striking are the persistent institutional failures revealed by a comparison between the post-accident evaluations of TMI and Fukushima, including
Failure of voluntary, self-regulation;
Denial of the reality of risk;
Lack of safety culture;
Lack of a comprehensive, consistent regulatory framework;
The challenge of continuous change and the failure to resolve outstanding safety issues;
Failure to require existing reactors to add safety measures because of cost; and,
Complexity, confusion and chaos in the response to a severe accident.
With the global nuclear safety institutions expressing strong concerns, particularly the advanced industrial nuclear nations, and the aftermath of Fukushima likely to command attention for years as the extent of the damage and the challenge of decommissioning unfold, the issues are likely to continue to have traction.
Source: Mark Cooper Research
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