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The cost of nuclear power plants

While nuclear power plants have a cost that is difficult to quantify in terms of environment and public health, they nevertheless have a budgetary cost that is not the least. For years, they are part of the most exponential costs of France. After the nuclear accident in Fukushima, Japan, there was a wide debate on the issue…


Many voices are rising to support the construction of new nuclear power plants and accept their risks, the only way they believe to maintain our current pattern of consumption. At a time when the biggest nuclear power plants in France are aging, can new nuclear constructions really help to solve the problem ? Apparently, France is ready to open several “new generation” nuclear power plants. If we are told about their new safety standards and their third generation reactor, the real cost of these investments  is much less emphasized. Nuclear energy costs in every aspect and every stage : from construction to maintenance, to dismantling.

  • The cost of buildinga nuclear power plant: in the 1950s, nuclear power was seen as the miracle solution to global energy developments. Today, we realize that their costs are much higher than expected. Of course, the latter depend on the type of plant and the deadlines to be respected, but in any case, the initial investment is very heavy. Thus, the investment costs for the construction of the 58 reactors currently operating in France amount to nearly €96 billion. The cost of nuclear energy in France increased by 20.6% between 2010 and 2013.


  • The cost of maintaining a nuclear power plant : to maintain its power stations and meet current standards, EDF must invest 55 billion euros in 58 of its nuclear reactors by 2025! Knowing that the main nuclear power plants have already exceeded their lifespan by 10 or even 15 years… “Maintenance cost” refers to operating costs as well as waste management costs. In 2012, 20 million euros were engulfed for the continued operation of the Fessenheim nuclear power plant (Haut-Rhin), the oldest in France. The Chooz nuclear power plant (the Ardennes) will benefit from a “youthfulness” by 2020 via an investment of 2 billion euros to allow it to last another 40 years… Generally speaking, more than 600 billions will have to be invested in European nuclear power to put back him to the current standards.


  • The cost of dismantling a nuclear power plant: if we were to dismantle the 58 EDF reactors today, France would have to spend 15 billion euros. In 2000, EDF announced that dismantling would cost about 15% of the capital cost of the nuclear power plant fleet, ie around 450 million euros per nuclear power plant. It would also take 20 years for the total dismantling of each reactor. Does EDF not underestimate the cost of dismantling its power stations ?
  • The cost of a nuclear accident: nuclear power is far from being a “thrifty” energy. But we are too inclined to forget the financial cost of a nuclear accident… For example, the Fukushima nuclear accident exceeded 170 billion euros (against 85,000 euros announced in 2013 by the Japanese authorities). This includes dismantling, compensating victims and “decontaminating” the environment. In France, if a nuclear accident classified as “serious” should take place, the economic impact would be 120 billion euros and 430 billion euros for a major accident such as Chernobyl or Fukushima. In 1980, the nuclear accident of Saint-Laurent-des-Eaux (Loir-et-Cher) cost more than 3 million euros and led France to touch the worst…


See also our article on the risks of nuclear power plants.

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