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The economics of nuclear power published as an article in Nuclear Future March 2012

Now that the prospects for a new fleet of nuclear power stations for the UK look more promising than for many a long year the anti-nuclear lobby has begun to raise the issue of nuclear power being 'hopelessly uncompetitive', but without providing any evidence to justify this claim.

The question of whether nuclear power is competitive with alternative sources of energy is difficult to answer. An estimate of the total costs over the lifetime of a nuclear plant, say 40 years, should be compared with the costs of alternative sources of energy in this period. Predicting costs over this time frame is very difficult, as illustrated by the volatility in the cost of oil and gas, which have seen an increase of at least a factor of 2 in the last 2 years.

The costs of nuclear power stations consists of an initial high cost of construction which typically can take between 4 and 6 years followed by a low operating cost as the uranium fuel is comparatively cheap. Oil, gas and coal power stations in contrast have a much lower costs of construction but a much higher operating cost as it buys on the open market the fuel it burns.

The issues on whether nuclear power stations are economic therefore depends upon:-

  • the capital costs of construction and the interest rate that applies to furnish the debt.
  • what are the costs of providing the fuel to generate electricity(Oil, coal, gas and uranium).
  • What should the lifetime of the plant be assumed as? (The current nuclear plants were designed to achieve 40 years of life but many in the USA and elsewhere have now been justified to 60 years),
  • What are the costs of decommissioning plants, in particular the costs of nuclear waste?
  • What costs should be attributed to the environmental damage caused by green house gas emissions from oil, coal and gas power station?

Clearly, each of these issues is complex with considerable uncertainties as to how these costs will vary over the next 40 years. There are however a number of studies which have examined these issues in considerable depth and used sensitivity analysis to assess their significance to the cost competitiveness between nuclear power and other sources of energy.


The World Nuclear Association report-'The new economics of nuclear power'

The World Nuclear Association published in December 2012 a report titled 'The new economics of nuclear power'. It distils the analysis of numerous studies produced in recent years by various governmental and academic institutions, and then incorporates expert analysis from the WNA's worldwide membership of nuclear industry enterprises.

The report reinforces intergovernmental analysis published earlier this year by the International energy Agency and the OECD's Nuclear Energy Agency. Their joint publication, entitled Projected Costs of Generating Electricity, recorded the remarkable improvement in nuclear competitiveness in recent years.

It is best to try and save energy by:

1.avoiding wasting energy, then
2.using energy more efficiently, then
3.using energy from clean renewable sources.

Energy conservation: Avoiding waste - cost nothing, and immediately starts you saving you money.

Some of them may involve some changes to your lifestyle, such as walking or taking the bus rather than driving off in your car.

Others are simple matters of habit - like switching off lights when they are not in use, and checking that the room thermostat on your heating system is set correctly. Conservation does not mean having to go without.

Sometimes, using energy efficiently,
involve a modest capital outlay. Some of the suggestions cost just a few pounds, and will pay for themselves within 12 months. Others require a more significant investment, or may involve professional installation. However almost all energy efficiency measures will eventually pay for themselves in lower energy bills through the post.


Using energy efficiently without waste

Once you are using energy eff ciently without waste, one can really start to think about where that energy is actually coming from. Clean, renewable energy sources - like the sun and the wind- are all around us. Sometimes they are a little difficult to tap into, or are more expensive than digging polluting fossil fuels out of the ground.

But there are a surprising number of small-scale renewable energy sources that won't cost the earth, and can be installed at an average UK home or business. And for the energy that you are not producing yourself, you can look at buying certified green electricity or even starting your own wind farm..

Some people want to rush in and use renewable energy from the very start. This is fine, but is likely to cost you more than by first looking carefully at how you are using energy. As most countries don't yet have enough renewables developed to meet demand, it is best to use this type of energy as efficiently and wisely as possible. For more details please email and we will send you our guide to Energy Saving free of charge.



Wind Energy


With fossil fuels running out fast it is now time to look at the more environmentally friendly renewable fuel sources available, one of these is wind energy or read Take control of your energy use and your carbon footprint

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