économique prospective de la filière électrique
(Economic forecast for nuclear power, an English version will be
available within a few weeks)
by Jean-Michel Charpin, Benjamin Dessus, René
Pellat. Report for France's Prime Minister. September 2000, Paris. 252
The plutonium industry is costing France a great
deal: around 164 billion Francs as compared to the uranium option. This
is one of the shattering conclusions from a report ordered by the French
Prime Minister into the economics of nuclear energy, handed to him on
28 July 2000. The study, carried out by three authors with very different
views, provides numerous elements for analysis without, however, making
recommandations. The report is based on an original method describing
the physical material flows associated with the electricity sector to
establish a chronology for expenditure in different forecasting scenarios
for the 2000-2050 period and calculating, at the end of the process,
the discounted costs of production of electricity.
In this way, the report distinguishes between different
scenarios for renewal of the present nuclear generating capacity (not
before 2025 thanks to a hypothetical extension of power plant life to
over 40 years) using "evolutionary" nuclear technologies (e.g.
the European Pressurized Reactor) or revolutionary technologies (high-temperature
reactors) or gas technology with combined cycle. It compares these alternatives
in high-electricity-demand and low-electricity-demand scenarios, demonstrating
the economic advantages of the latter.
The comparison of future solutions is based on a
very detailed evaluation of France's present nuclear power plants (limited
to pressurized water reactors), since its inception in 1977 to the end
of its life. This analysis, to which WISE-Paris contributed, shows that
the strategies for reprocessing and re-use of plutonium in MOX, are
systematically more expensive than storage, with very limited savings
in terms of uranium and reductions in the quantities of plutonium in
waste. Over the life of the nuclear power plants, the report assesses
the additional cost of the reprocessing-MOX route at 164 billion Francs,
with an accumulation of 4,800 tons of irradiated MOX (needing to be
stored for up to 150 years more than UOX), a saving of 38,000 tons (i.e.
8%) of natural uranium, and a reduction in the stock of unseparated
plutonium from 667 to 514 tons. The report thus calculates an additional
cost of over 1 billion Francs per "tonne of plutonium avoided"
in the final waste stockpile.
Leaving the responsibility of choice to the politicians,
the three authors propose a global analysis that was lacking so far.
The result is, according to French Minister of environment Dominique
Voynet, "maybe the first equitable report in French nuclear
The report, published by “la
Documentation Française”, is available on the Internet,
The study is based on three additional reports, published
by the Commissariat général du Plan, available on the