Cost of Nuclear Power

Corporate Welfare

Despite its promise more than 50 years ago of energy “too cheap to meter,” the nuclear power industry continues to be dependent on taxpayer handouts to survive. Since its inception in 1948, this industry has received tens of billions of dollars in federal subsidies but remains unable to compete economically on its own. On August 8, 2005, then president, George Bush signed an energy bill that included over $13 billion in tax breaks and subsidies, as well as other incentives, for the nuclear industry. Public Citizen opposes giving money to a mature industry that is pollutive and unsustainable, and that will fail to fundamentally address climate change and environmental degradation.

Risky Financial Trend

Even with massive subsidies, nuclear technology is prohibitively expensive. Current cost projections for a new nuclear reactor are over four times as high as the initial "nuclear renaissance" projections. In 2000, the Nucelar Energy Institute, which represents the nuclear industry, estimated the overnight cost of nuclear at $2000 per kW. Since the original estimates, cost has jumped to $6000 per kW. At this rate, a 1,600 mW reactor-like the US EPR proposed for Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania and Texas-would cost upwards of $10 billion. Public Citizen advocates investment in renewable energy development and energy efficiency measures. Dollar for dollar, renewable energy and energy efficiency can deliver more energy than nuclear power.

Costly Clean-Up

Permanently shut-down nuclear power plants must be decommissioned, a process the Nuclear Regulatory Commission defines as "safely removing a facility from service and reducing residual radioactivity." Nuclear utilities establish trust funds, through fees collected from their ratepayers, to pay for the immense costs of decommissioning. Public Citizen monitors decommissioning policy, advocates for responsible clean-up requirements and works to safeguard decommissioning trust funds for their intended purpose. Learn more

Additional Resource:

Read summary of nuclear power giveaways in the Energy Policy Act of 2005

In the Spotlight: Key Giveaways for the Nuclear Industry