Taxpayer will cop astronomic costs of nuclear accidents

The Nuclear Cost Shell Game, By Stephen Leahy, UXBRIDGE, Canada, May 6, 2011 (IPS) – The nuclear energy industry only exists thanks to what insurance experts call the “mother of all subsidies”, and the public is largely unaware that every nuclear power plant in the world has a strict cap on how much the industry might have to pay out in case of an accident.

In Canada, this liability cap is an astonishingly low 75 million dollars. In India, it is 110 million dollars and in Britain 220 million dollars. If there is an accident, governments – i.e. the public – are on the hook for all costs exceeding those caps.
Japan has a higher liability cap of 1.2 billion dollars, but that is not nearly enough for the estimated 25 to 150 billion dollars in decommissioning and liability costs for what is still an ongoing disaster at its Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Seven weeks after the tsunami caused the disaster, radiation levels continued to spike higher.

No one knows when the reactors will finally be in cold shutdown, or when the costs of the Fukushima disaster will stop piling up. One report suggests decommissioning will take 30 years.

Japan’s credit rating was downgraded because of the accident, noted Mycle Schneider, a Paris-based energy and nuclear policy analyst who has worked in Japan. “The Japanese know it’s just a matter of time before another large earthquake occurs,” Schneider told IPS. “Japan will never build another nuclear plant.”

On Friday, Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan ordered the undamaged Hamaoka Nuclear Power Plant, about 200 kilometres southwest of Tokyo, to cease operations over future earthquake concerns.

The Fukushima accident has been rated at the highest level (7) of the International Atomic Energy Agency scale, the same as Chernobyl accident.
Twenty-five years after the disaster at Chernobyl’s reactor number 4, the global community is struggling to find 2.2 billion dollars to build a permanent shelter to replace the collapsing cement and steel sarcophagus hastily built after the accident.

That 2.2 billion dollars does not include the costs of dismantling the radioactive material nor the costs of building a safe storage facility for the spent and damaged nuclear fuel from the plant. This material will be dangerously radioactive for thousands of years.
The Nuclear Cost Shell Game – IPS

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