The New Economics of Nuclear Power
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Of all factors affecting prospects for the substantial growth of nuclear power in the 21st century, cost is the most fundamental. What are the essential economics associated with the construction and operation of advanced state-of-the-art nuclear power plants?
Certainly other factors will affect the pace of the global nuclear renaissance now under way. The nuclear debate continues to feature expressions of concern about nuclear arms, terrorism, operational and transport safety, and effective waste management and disposal. In addressing all of these concerns, however, the combined efforts of science, diplomacy and industry have achieved substantial advance in ensuring that civil nuclear power can be used without substantial human or environmental risk.
This achievement in meeting legitimate public concerns has provided the foundation for the nuclear renaissance by prompting governments in countries representing the preponderance of world population and economic activity to consider a wider exploitation of the benefits of nuclear energy. These benefits fall into two categories:
- National: price stability and security of energy supply
- Global environmental: near-zero greenhouse gas emissions.
Today, given the urgent environmental imperative of achieving a global clean-energy revolution, public policy has sound and urgent justification for placing a sizeable premium on clean technologies. Such environmentally-driven incentives can come through carbon taxes, emissions trading, or subsidies for non-emitting generators of power.
But the enactment of public policies fully infused with such vision and rationality is a slow process, perhaps too slow. A key question then is whether nuclear energy requires such policy intervention in order to be economically competitive. In short, is nuclear investment warranted in the absence of policy incentives?
This WNA Report addresses the question by providing an authoritative analysis of the economics associated with the construction and operation of nuclear power plants in the 21st century. To achieve this, the report draws upon numerous respected studies published since 2003, describes their premises and parameters, and summarizes the findings. To this synthesis the report adds analysis from member companies of the World Nuclear Association.
The Report was prepared by a WNA Working Group comprised of experts on nuclear economics and chaired by Roger W. Gale, President and CEO of GF Energy. The project was managed by Stephen Kidd, WNA Director of Strategy and Research.