Directly disposing of spent nuclear fuel is cheaper than recycling it, revised estimates by a Japan Atomic Energy Commission panel suggest.
Based on projections the panel released Friday, the costs of direct disposal by burying spent fuel underground would come to between ¥8.6 trillion and ¥14.1 trillion, whereas reprocessing it for recycling would cost between ¥15.4 trillion and ¥18 trillion.
On April 19, the panel forecast that recycling nuclear fuel was the less expensive option — using a different method of calculation that it now says was misleading.
The previous projections appeared to suggest that direct disposal would require around ¥5 trillion in additional costs, including to decommission a nuclear fuel reprocessing plant.
The panel now says these extra expenses would also be incurred if the fuel were to be entirely recycled, or if some of it is disposed of and part of it reprocessed.
“We apologize for causing misunderstanding” over the issue, said Tatsujiro Suzuki, who chairs the panel. “The latest estimates were drawn up to show the total costs the nation will have to shoulder” under various scenarios.
The new projections estimate the cost of handling the total amount of spent nuclear fuel that will have accumulated by 2030.
This time around, the panel included all items requiring cash expenditures, such as reprocessing and final disposal costs, and funds to scrap the reprocessing plant. But previous expenditures and depreciation costs, which do not involve cash outlays, were removed from the equation.
The panel used three scenarios to calculate the costs — completely recycling spent fuel, completely disposing of it, and a dual reprocessing-disposal approach.
The calculations also included three different assumptions about Japan’s dependency on nuclear fuel in terms of its total power supply by 2030 — 35 percent, 20 percent and zero.
If the nation’s dependence on nuclear power is entirely eliminated by 2030, the panel’s estimates show that direct disposal of spent fuel would be the best option, costing between ¥8.6 trillion and ¥9.3 trillion. If atomic energy accounts for 20 percent of Japan’s total power supply by that time, direct disposal would cost between ¥11.8 trillion and ¥12.6 trillion, and if the dependency rate is 35 percent, somewhere in the region of ¥13.3 trillion to ¥14.1 trillion.
However, the state would have to pay between ¥15.4 trillion and ¥18 trillion if it either entirely or partially recycles nuclear fuel, according to the panel.
Power firms log losses
Of the nine utilities that released consolidated earnings for fiscal 2011 as of Friday, seven logged net losses totaling ¥81.9 billion due to the higher costs of running thermal power plants.
But when Tokyo Electric Power Co. releases its battered earnings results in mid-May, the power industry’s combined losses are projected to total around ¥1.5 trillion.
Only Chugoku Electric Power Co. and Okinawa Electric Power Co. stayed in the black last year.Kansai Electric Power Co. saw a record net loss of ¥242.26 billion.