Rising costs expose nuclear energy as costly white elephant


By Martin Kelly

The spiralling costs of new nuclear energy have exposed the financial risks that pursuing a new generation of nuclear power plants would entail.

Reports in yesterday’s Financial Times make clear that to be viable new nuclear power stations would need to receive £100 for every megawatt hour produced, more than the current cost of producing onshore wind energy and more than double the current wholesale energy price.


According to the newspaper, the price of a new nuclear reactor at £7.5 billion, is now around £3 billion more than it was just two years ago.

The new figures are revealed as it emerges a new reactor under construction at Flamanville in France, one of the first in Europe to be built in decades, is four years behind schedule and has seen its £2.5 billion price-tag almost double.

Commenting, SNP MSP John Wilson who is the deputy convener of the Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee said:

“The fact that new nuclear energy producers would demand a higher price than renewable energy currently costs shows just how ill-advised a new generation of nuclear power stations would be.

“While the costs of renewable energy are falling as the sector develops its capacity and expertise, the costs of nuclear are spiralling out of control.

“Nuclear energy is expensive, dangerous and impossible to deliver without massive public subsidy. Countries around the world are moving away from this technology and it is no solution for our future energy needs.

“The UK Government would be extremely ill-advised to tie itself to new nuclear power and put the public purse at risk as a result. The last thing we can afford is to be left picking up the pieces when the UK Government’s nuclear obsession unravels.”

This week First Minister Alex Salmond called on the UK coalition to end its internal feud and clarify what support it will provide to the renewables sector.  The Scottish government joined business leaders in calling for clarity in order to end uncertainty that is risking millions of pounds in investment.

Mr Wilson added

“The Scottish Government has set ambitious targets to generate the equivalent of 100% of our electricity needs from renewables by 2020.  That is already delivering jobs and investment to communities across Scotland demonstrating the kind of leadership that the UK Government would do well to follow, rather than their determination to build nuclear white elephants.”

The Committee on Climate Change estimated that production costs for onshore wind in the UK was between £80 and £95 per megawatt hour in 2011.