October 27, 2011
–The Asahi Shimbun, Oct. 27
EDITORIAL: New cost estimates argue for changing nuclear power policy

New government estimates that factor in the cost of the disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant show that nuclear power generation is actually a relatively expensive way to produce electricity.

The damage from the accident is so vast and wide-ranging that a final figure is not yet available.

However, the Cabinet Office’s Japan Atomic Energy Commission has come up with a broad idea of how much the disaster will raise the cost of nuclear power generation.

The additional cost due to the accident could be as high as 1.2 yen per kilowatt-hour of electricity, according to the commission’s estimate.

A core meltdown occurred at three of the six reactors at the disabled plant.

Based on the total number of years that Japan’s 50-odd nuclear power plants have been in operation, divided by the number of crippled reactors, it can be estimated that an accident of this scale occurs once every 500 years per reactor.

This estimation was used to calculate the cost increase.

If the cost of the accident is factored in, the overall tab of nuclear power generation comes to 6.8 yen per kilowatt-hour, compared with 5.7 yen for thermal power generation using coal as fuel or 6.2 yen for generating electricity by burning liquefied natural gas.

The new cost estimates are ball park figures and don’t take account the money needed for the massive-scale decontamination that has yet to be undertaken.

Another important cost factor concerns the unsolved issue of the final disposal of radioactive waste being produced by nuclear power plants across the nation.

Clearly, the cost of atomic power generation will be much higher than traditional estimates.

Nuclear power generation has long been touted as “a cheap and safe way to produce a large amount of electricity.”

But the Fukushima disaster has disproved not only the claim of its safety but also that of its economic advantage.

The Atomic Energy Commission has produced another important cost estimate.

Japan has adopted the nuclear fuel reprocessing approach, which involves extracting plutonium from spent nuclear fuel for recycling as fuel.

This process costs 2 yen per kilowatt-hour.

In contrast, the direct disposal approach, which involves burning uranium just once and disposing of the radioactive waste produced in the process, costs 1 yen, half of the cost of reprocessing, according to the commission.

This is a big difference.

The total cost of nuclear power generation would be 5.8 yen if the current reprocessing approach is replaced by the direct disposal method.

The Atomic Energy Commission made the same cost comparison seven years ago, and the results were roughly the same.

But it decided against proposing to drop the policy of fuel reprocessing, citing the huge costs that would result from such a major policy shift.

There is the argument that changing the policy would negate past investment and require new research while straining the central government’s relations with the local governments of the areas where nuclear power plants are located.

This argument doesn’t hold water any more.

In the wake of the catastrophic accident, there is strong public distrust toward nuclear power.

It is almost impossible to win public support for the reprocessing approach, which can only make a small saving of uranium at a high cost.

The two cost estimates are hard numbers that throw into sharp relief the grim reality of nuclear power generation in Japan.

It is clearly time for the govrnment to change its nuclear power policy, which has been in place since the end of World War II.

The government’s Energy and Environment Council should lead debate on the issue.

As such, it bears a heavy responsibility.
Japan must face up to the fact it needs to pursue a future without nuclear power.

At the same time, we feel debate is also needed on scrapping nuclear fuel reprocessing, the necessity of which has been called into question.

The time has come for the government to grapple with the cost of changing its nuclear power policy.

srachai について

early retired civil engineer migrated from Tokyo to Thailand
カテゴリー: Uncategorized パーマリンク



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