Cost of Decommissioning Nuclear Plants

Nuclear proponents like to talk about how affordable the power is from nuclear plants. But we all know that someday, we will need to safely decommission the plants, and that is going to cost a lot. After all, it is tricky business dealing with highly toxic materials. You can’t just use a wrecking ball. And it is has never been done before with Candu reactors used in Ontario. We will have to invent a way to safely do it. The Vancouver Sun has published an article that estimates the cost to decommission the Gentilly reactor in Quebec at $1.6 billion.

So lets do a little math. Ontario has 20 nuclear reactors. Today, 15 are operating. Two of the Pickering units are “laid up”, a euphemism for “awaiting decommissioning”. One of the Pickering reactors is out for repair. Two of the Bruce units are nearing the end of a multi year refurbishment, and were supposed to be operating on Mar 31, and June 30 respectively, although they are not yet operating.

The cost to decommission 20 reactors, if the cost is the same as Quebec, would be $32 billion. And that is using the nuclear industry estimates, which have never before been accurate. Perhaps we are talking about $60 billion? And we haven’t even talked about the cost of storing the nuclear waste for thousands of years.

$32 billion is a huge number, rivaling the debt incurred to build the nuclear plants in the first place.

It looks like the hated Debt Recovery Charge on our bills will be with us for a long time to come. Our liabilities with nuclear go on long after the financial liability has been paid.

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