Nuclear power has no future

Publish date: April 26, 2011

Written by: Andreas Kokkvoll Tveit

Translated by: Charles Digges

Bellona marked the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster by presenting new reports on nuclear power. The conclusion is clear: The risks of nuclear power are too great and the cost too high.

“Our analysis shows that the Russian nuclear industry is an over-subsidized industry that is unable to compete commercially, “said Igor Koudrik, a expert on the Russian nuclear industry with Bellona.

He was one of the speakers at the Bellona Chernobyl seminar today, which was marked the day 25 years ago – on April 26, 1986 – that the world’s worst nuclear disaster took place.

Russian nuclear to be left in dust by competition

Koudrik presented a new Bellona report that examines the real costs of nuclear energy. They are greatly underestimated, said the new report, which will be posted to Bellona Web in its complete form shortly.

The Russian nuclear industry is characterized by corruption, government interference and lack of healthy competition. Thus, the industry avoids taking into account real costs, which artificially keeps it alive,” said Koudrik.

Under these conditions, nuclear power in Russia will be outpaces and competitively buried by both renewable energy, like hydroelectric power and wind power, as well as by gas and other conventional energy sources.

Unknown costs

Koudrik also recalled for the seminar that, as of today, no one knows the magnitude of the costs associated with storing the large amounts of radioactive waste generated by the nuclear industry.  

“It may be far, far more than we believe today, since no adequate storage methods exist yet,” he said.

“Nuclear power’s competitiveness has also weakened in line with alternative energy sources becoming cheaper and cheaper.”

Looking at real prices

Bellona President Frederic Hauge came to the same conclusion. In cooperation with Viktor Jakobsen of Bellona’s Board of Director, Hauge examined the cost of energy production in the United States, and believes the nuclear power lobby deliberately deflates in its public communications how expensive nuclear power is.

“Accidents, health effects and effects on agriculture are not taken into account, and storage and decommissioning costs are set too low,” Hauge said.

“In our cautious estimates, we have included nuclear power’s actual price, and it becomes clear that nuclear power falls out when it must compete on equal footing with other [energy sources].”

Large hidden transfers 

Hauge is confident that the still unfolding tragedy at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant which was rocked by an earthquake and slammed by a tsunami on March 11, will lead to an increase in the nuclear industry’s costs, and serve as an ugly reminder, for example, that accident insurance can be enormously expensive.

“The hidden [financial] transfers probably makes [nuclear power] the most subsidized energy source of them all,” said Hauge.

“Now, after Fukushima, I am more secure than ever that nuclear power has no place in the future of environmentally friendly energy.”

Restructuring required for IAEA

The performance of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was also reviewed in Hauge’s remarks.

“That the IAEA has not even opposed nuclear power plants in tsunami-prone area is simply a scandal. The Agency simply needs a reorganization,” said Hauge.

Hundreds of thousands forced to move after Chernobyl explosion

[picture1 {Oleksandr Tsvietkov, Ukraine’s ambassador to Norway}] Ukrainian Ambassador to Norway, Oleksandr Tsvietkov, was also present at the seminar and spoke about the consequences the Chernobyl disaster had for most people in his homeland.

 “Chernobyl changed Ukraine fundamentally. Cities were uninhabitable, good farmland became useless overnight – and we still use the five percent of our gross domestic product to deal with the consequences of the accident,” he said. 

Pleas for help

Tsvietkov spoke about ongoing efforts to ensure safe disposal of the hazardous fuel which is still inside the exploded reactor. A new cement sarcophagus should ensure that radioactive contamination does not escape, and a separate storage facility will eventually store the nuclear waste.

“With international help, we have now managed to get about three quarters of the 730 million euro needed, and we hope for more support so that future generations in Ukraine will not have to grow up with this threat, “said the ambassador.

Earlier in the day Bellona’s general manager Nils Bøhmer, speaking at the Norwegian daily Aftenposten, demanded that Norway double its contribution to the cleanup project.