Government report says post-Fukushima price rose to 'minimum' of ¥8.9 per kilowatt hour

Nuclear power generation costs surge


A government panel says in a draft report that nuclear power generation costs ¥8.9 per kilowatt hour when including expenses associated with nuclear accidents, higher than a 2004 projection of ¥5.9 per kwh.

The new estimate, calculated by considering the result of the catastrophe at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant, shows that nuclear power is still one of the cheapest energy sources, the panel said. But its draft report, released Tuesday, notes that ¥8.9 is the “minimum” cost of nuclear power as the total financial damages from a severe nuclear accident are still unclear.

According to the draft report, coal-powered thermal plants generate electricity at ¥9.5 per kwh, while the rate for liquefied natural gas-powered thermal plants is ¥10.7 per kwh.

In the 2004 projection, the cost of electricity from coal-fed plants was pegged at ¥5.7 per kwh, and from LNG-fired plants at ¥6.2 per kwh.

Among renewable energy sources, costs of wind power generation on land are estimated at between ¥9.9 and ¥17.3 per kwh, and of household solar power at ¥33.4 to ¥38.3 per kwh.

Looking forward to 2030, thermal power costs are expected to increase, while the cost of wind and solar power are projected to drop to as low as ¥8.8 and ¥9.9 per kwh amid expected market expansion. The cost of nuclear power is estimated to stay at ¥8.9 per kwh.

The calculation is part of the review of energy policy in light of the Fukushima crisis.

Under the national energy plan endorsed in June 2010, reliance on nuclear energy was projected to increase to 53 percent of the total power supply by 2030, from about 30 percent before the Fukushima accident.

Based on the panel’s final report, to be issued later this month, the government is expected to come up with what is known as the “energy best mix.”

The latest estimates are different from the 2004 figures because of what the panel calls social expenses, in addition to capital, fuel and operation and maintenance costs. Social expenses are included in costs for nuclear power in the form of accident risk, and for thermal power in the form of costs to deal with carbon dioxide emissions.

Nuclear accident risk costs are estimated at ¥0.5 per kwh, according to the draft report, which notes that expense could increase further depending on damages caused by a severe nuclear accident.

So far, the panel estimates damages costs to be at least ¥5.8 trillion, drawing on the Fukushima accident. But that figure doesn’t include all factors, such as expenses related to cleaning radiation-contaminated land around the plant.