Nuclear waste storage could add more than $350bn to cost of nuclear

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An economist said that the disposal and storage of nuclear waste could add up to $350 billion to the price of nuclear power. The declaration was filed as part of the Draft Waste Confidence Generic Environmental Impact Statement process.

According to a declaration filed Dec. 19 with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission by economist Mark Cooper, a senior fellow for economic analysis at the Institute for Energy and the Environment of the Vermont Law School, conservative estimates put the additional costs of at-reactor storage and disposal in a permanent repository between $210 billion to $350 billion. The analysis looks at a range of scenarios, including heavy reliance on on-site reactor storage of nuclear waste in casks and the use of one or more Yucca Mountain-type repositories. The extra cost per unit of nuclear reactor output with nuclear waste storage and disposal would range from $10 to $20 per megawatt-hour of electricity generated by the reactors.

“The economic numbers are crystal clear. Nuclear waste management costs are staggering and should be included in any proper analysis of the economics of nuclear reactors for purposes of issuing new licenses or renewing old ones,” Cooper said. “Given the substantial scale of these costs, any cost-benefit analysis that ‘hides’ such numbers is simply not credible. The fact that some of these costs have been socialized and taken off the shoulders of the industry does not make them any less expensive, burdensome, or relevant in determining the full and true cost of nuclear power.”

Neil Sheehan, public affairs officer with the NRC, said commissioners will evaluate Cooper’s comments along with the hundreds of others received before the report is finalized in 2014.

“With respect to spent fuel storage costs, ratepayers have been contributing a fund to cover those costs for decades,” Sheehan said. “Since no federal repository has yet been opened, numerous plant owners have reached court settlements with DOE to cover ongoing storage costs.”

The Nuclear Energy Institute also said Cooper’s estimates were based on assumptions that used fuel would be stored at nuclear power plants for hundreds of years with no repository.

“It is also unlikely that even with 100 years in storage on sites, fuel would require repackaging, and a disposal price tag that is 3 1/2 times the most recent Yucca Mountain cost estimate,” said Mitch Singer, senior media relations manager with NEI. “And the analysis doesn’t take into account advancing technologies that may well give the nuclear industry more options with possible reduced costs for storage.”

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