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Japan The Almighty Buck Government Power Science Technology

Japan Fukushima Nuclear Plant 'Clean-Up Costs Double,' Approaching $200 Billion (bbc.com) 302

An anonymous reader quotes a report from BBC: Japan's government estimates the cost of cleaning up radioactive contamination and compensating victims of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster has more than doubled, reports say. The latest estimate from the trade ministry put the expected cost at some 20 trillion yen ($180 billion). The original estimate was for $50 billion, which was increased to $100 billion three years later. The majority of the money will go towards compensation, with decontamination taking the next biggest slice. Storing the contaminated soil and decommissioning are the two next greatest costs. The compensation pot has been increased by about 50% and decontamination estimates have been almost doubled. The BBC's Japan correspondent, Rupert Wingfield-Hayes, says it is still unclear who is going to pay for the clean up. Japan's government has long promised that Tokyo Electric Power, the company that owns the plant, will eventually pay the money back. But on Monday it admitted that electricity consumers would be forced to pay a portion of the clean up costs through higher electricity bills. Critics say this is effectively a tax on the public to pay the debt of a private electricity utility.
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Japan Fukushima Nuclear Plant 'Clean-Up Costs Double,' Approaching $200 Billion

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  • by ColdWetDog ( 752185 ) on Monday November 28, 2016 @10:10PM (#53381999) Homepage

    An off the cuff estimate of a complicated event with virtually no precedents. Made by an entity responsible for the disaster.

    I think everyone who thought about it for more than a couple of minutes was figuring to multiply the 'estimate' by a factor between 2 and 10.

  • Like the previous story?

  • by manu0601 ( 2221348 ) on Monday November 28, 2016 @10:16PM (#53382031)
    If Tepco's profit are not enough to fill the bill, then there is a good case to go after Tepco's capital. Japan's state could seize the company.
    • Won't someone think of the Tepco investors? And their children?
      • Tepco's managers and directors. Entirely corrupt on basic safety and design issues
      • This is capitalism: when you invest into a company, you can win if there are profits, but you can also loose if the company goes bankrupt.
        • This is capitalism: when you invest into a company, you can win if there are profits, but you can also loose if the company goes bankrupt.

          That's old-fashioned capitalism, and it's been dead for decades.

          In today's late-stage capitalism, you can win if there are profits, and if the company goes bankrupt, you can win bigger.

        • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

          The government decided it was better to keep the company going because a) it delivers power to a lot of people and b) any profit it makes can go into the compensation fund.

          Even so, the government will be on the hook for most of the cost, at least in the medium term. I doubt they will ever get the full cost back.

      • Won't someone think of the Tepco investors? And their children?

        I can think of some jobs for them.

        This brings up an idea. A way to possibly remove the inherent corruption that makes it difficult to build safe and sensibly built nuc power plants. Require that the CEO's and CFO's, engineers and their families live on site, and not be allowed to leave during problems. IOW, they'd still be there right now.

        I suspect that would take care of just about all safety problems.

    • Their market cap is only 6 billion USD.

      This is what would happen, if they have debts in excess of what they can ever pay, they'd go bankrupt, the investors would get nothing, and their assets would be sold to pay some of the debts. 6 billion is nothing compare to 200 billion though...

    • by caseih ( 160668 )

      Yes and that would leave the government and tax payers still with 100% of the bill. There's really nothing they could go after, whether it's blood or money, that could repay the cost. It just is what it is. And that's the way it works. If you force the company to shoulder the costs alone, it will have to pass those on to its customers. Either way, people pay for it. Taking a company's profits sounds good, but in reality it just costs everyone else.

      Personally I think just eating the total cost and spre

  • That's not even all (Score:4, Interesting)

    by djinn6 ( 1868030 ) on Monday November 28, 2016 @10:21PM (#53382047)
    What about the lost productivity of the land that's now quarantined? Or the tourism money that would've went to Japan if it wasn't for Fukushima?

    I'd like to see an honest calculation of how much nuclear power costs, because all the numbers I've seen never takes those into account.
    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      Well, if you simply divide the $200bn between every reactor in Japan, it works out as about $4.4bn/reactor.

  • "Critics say!" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tailhook ( 98486 ) on Monday November 28, 2016 @10:29PM (#53382077)

    The supposed "critics" are fucking idiots. Thins as big and as costly as a nuclear power plant is not built on the whim of a corporation. Rate payers, government at all levels from the first responders that are funded to serve it to the indifferent elected officials the public put in office and who appointed the deficient regulators; everyone was at the table and everyone got the benefits for forty years. Japan used the power of those nukes to build its prosperity from the 70's to 2011 and there is a whole generation of geriatric Japanese living off the pensions built by that engine of wealth. The public is just as obligated to pay for the consequences as Tepco or anyone else involved in Fukushima.

    • Re:"Critics say!" (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Ol Olsoc ( 1175323 ) on Monday November 28, 2016 @11:40PM (#53382407)

      The public is just as obligated to pay for the consequences as Tepco or anyone else involved in Fukushima.

      Then don't ask why the public isn't quite so interested in building more Fukushimas. Because when you add 200 billion as a oopsie payment, it makes nuc power not look so damn awesome.

      • by shilly ( 142940 )

        Perfectly put!

      • Because you don't get something for nothing. People can decide they are willing to use less power, decrease power usage enough and you can get away with less plants. However that does mean compromising modern lifestyle, as increases in efficiency only go so far (and many people have already done what they can to increase the efficiency of their use). They can use fossil fuel power instead, though that requires buying the fuel on a continual basis (Japan has no reserves to speak of) and dealing with the poll

    • by Idou ( 572394 )

      Thins[sic] as big and as costly as a nuclear power plant is not built on the whim of a corporation.

      So you were also 100% for the bank bailouts, right?

    • by Calydor ( 739835 )

      I agree with most of what you said, but I also vaguely recall reading some years ago that Japan basically doesn't have pensions - that getting 'retired' is not the sudden inflow of free time we know in the western world, but a degradation to working as a bagger in the local supermarket to survive.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      You are presenting a false dichotomy. It's not "have nuclear and get a nice pension, or don't have nuclear and no pension". If they had invested in other sources of energy it would likely have paid as much or more, and not resulted in this accident.

      Japan tried to become a major player in the nuclear power building market, exporting its designs and expertise. It could have done the same with other sources of energy, which would now be in much greater demand than nuclear is. Hindsight and all that.

  • by mjh2901 ( 570983 ) on Monday November 28, 2016 @10:31PM (#53382087) Homepage
    When dealing with Utilities, there is no way for the company to pay back without taking the money from the rate payers. The only real way to do it is for the government ot require the company to issue stock representing a percentage of the company value that would go to the government. Therefore the owners of the company ie stock holders pay for the damage they caused by placing idiots in charge and the government can then sell the stock to pay for the cleanup or hold it in trust to ensure this does not happen again.
    • by Luthair ( 847766 )
      They could be required to post a bond or carry insurance. Ultimately it affects the rate payer but it should be factored into the cost of that utility. While I'm a believer in nuclear power, much like coal (which I don't believe in) it shouldn't be cheaper at the cost of society.
      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        Nuclear power stations can't get insurance, the liability is far too great. They typically have a small insurance fund covering smaller accidents, but if things go really bad the government is on the hook. The liability is virtually unlimited.

        • Nuclear power stations can't get insurance, the liability is far too great

          That should say enough. Risk = chance * impact * "repairability". Sure, the chance of a nuclear accident is low, but the impact is so huge that the risk is way too high.

      • The potential costs are too high, private insurers aren't willing to underwrite it. Same kind of shit with flood insurance. In the case of nuclear it is really, really hard to price that shit as well. I mean problems with it happen very rarely, but when they do the potential costs can be huge and the costs can be difficult to estimate because you deal not with just actual costs, but with political/PR issues as well. Things like big exclusion areas are not the kind of thing that is necessarily mandatory as a

  • I don't understand how the costs of this can approach that magnitude (using $100k / man-year as a generous number). The linked article was very sparse on numbers, so it's unclear how many people are being compensated, but even if you compensated ten thousand people 100 years worth of income each, that would only be half the cost, and I don't understand how any huge civil engineering project could cost 1 million man-years of effort. The Hoover Dam apparently only cost $700M in today's dollars - what is inv

    • by Altrag ( 195300 ) on Monday November 28, 2016 @11:32PM (#53382367)

      Well since even TFS suggested that compensation was the lion's share of that amount, a quick Googling brings me to this article: which suggests, as of last year, that there was "still" 250,000 people displaced (the phrasing of which suggests that there was previously even more.)

      So that's quite a bit larger than the 10k people you were suggesting. $200B/250k people works out to $800k per person. Which is still quite a lot, but not nearly as insane as it sounds if you'd been assuming only 10,000 people.

      And of course that's not counting people who hadn't been displaced but may be getting compensated for some reason or other anyway.

      • by Calydor ( 739835 )

        800k per person isn't all that much if you consider that perhaps it includes temporary accomodations (since 2011). Five years in a hotel room is gonna get costly.

        • by fnj ( 64210 )

          Five years in a hotel room is gonna get costly.

          To be sure. Which is why anyone with any sense whatever would build quonset hut towns to house the displaced. That's what they did for the interned Japanese-Americans in WW II. And many Manhattan Project workers.

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

        $800k per person isn't that much really.

        Consider that most of them lost everything. Real-estate, most of their property, businesses, jobs etc. Often they became ill as a result (stress). The compensation is supposed to help them rebuilt some of that, and of course with such a large number of people suddenly all looking for new property and new jobs prices have rocketed.

        And that's before you get to any compensation for suffering.

  • Taxpayers and customers are footing the bill. They might grumble a bit, but they'll still pay.

  • by galabar ( 518411 ) on Monday November 28, 2016 @11:16PM (#53382299)
    Does this mean that every nuclear power plant is "too big to fail," with each installation possibly representing a trillion+ dollar liability?
    • Maybe, depends on location. Consider if San Onefore would have gone tits up when it was running. How much would it cost to buy out all those people in San Clemente? SoCal beach front property is not cheap. Good land in Japan is expensive because it is such a scarce resource.

    • Re:To big to fail? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Altrag ( 195300 ) on Tuesday November 29, 2016 @12:09AM (#53382519)

      Yes, which is why they're supposed to be stupidly overdesigned and are given shutdown dates and whatnot.

      Trouble is, we haven't been shutting them down. Strong political resentment makes it hard to build replacement plants (and those things produce a lot of power that has to be replaced in some manner.)

      And if you get past that you get the beancounters looking at the multi-billion dollar price tags of a new reactor and they start wondering if the existing ones can't hold on just a few more years.

      And when you get past that, you get the NIMBYs doing their best to make sure that the only place you can build the new plant is on the moon.. and someone would still likely complain about it.

      Unfortunately the world has turned away from the idea of long-term investments in things like infrastructure. Anything that looks bad in the next quarterly report is highly questioned and anything the government gets involved in has to be able to show positive results by the next election season.

      A project that won't show a profit for 10 or 20 years (or worse doesn't show a profit at all and is only being done because we don't want bloody nuclear explosions all over the place) is simply not given any political or economic weight these days.

      Throw in the uphill battle I mention above and its hardly surprising that we keep trying to retrofit and upgrade existing ancient plants. Its nearly impossible to do anything else. But unfortunately there will be the odd occasion when "good enough" just isn't good enough anymore. And unfortunately when that occasion happens to hit a nuclear power plant, things get very ugly very fast.

      Nuclear is still our cleanest, safest form of large-scale power. But only if its properly maintained, spent fuel properly reprocessed and properly disposed of when it can no longer be reprocessed, replacement schedules are followed and so forth. Unfortunately we've got an absolutely horrific track record on basically all of those points. Frankly its kind of amazing that we haven't had more disasters.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        I love how people who tout solar and wind as "clean" are actually a form of NIMBY because they don't mind all of the strip-mining at slave wages for all of the rare earth minerals that have to me mined and transported to build them. Let alone all of the pollution created during that process.

        Anyone with the simplest understanding of nuclear vs chemical bonds should understand that there is no comparison. We might as well be still running 8086--except nuke is even larger comparison. 1st-world countries should

        • by Kjella ( 173770 )

          1st-world countries should be capable of running nuclear power without serious problems if their governments actually demanded quality. (...) And Japan? Japan put a ton of reactors on a freaking crowded island, and then didn't bother to inspect them properly. (Any moron with a badge could have noticed their backup generators weren't on the required stilts above the waterline--which failed when flooded.) The story of Fukushima is a failure of government to regulate greedy corporations, not an inherent failure of technology.

          So first we need to get rid of greed and incompetence, then nuclear will be safe? Let's be honest here, before Fukushima everyone was dismissing Chernobyl as being the Soviet Union playing fast and loose with nuclear safety that would never ever happen in a first world country like Japan. But it did anyway. And after the next accident I'm sure that in retrospect we'll find some reason why it shouldn't have happened too, we usually do. That it won't happen in a perfect world is not applicable to the real wor

        • You're rather spectacularly missing the point. Everyone understands that nuclear bonds release orders of magnitude more energy than chemical bonds. I mean, duh. That's the whole point: it's a high-beta technology. When things go well, you get loads of controlled energy. When things fuck up, you get loads of uncontrolled energy... and humans aren't that marvellous at operating complex systems without ever fucking up for decades on end. So we try all types of risk mitigations, and plan for bad actors etc etc.

        • I love how people who tout solar and wind as "clean" are actually a form of NIMBY because they don't mind all of the strip-mining at slave wages for all of the rare earth minerals that have to me mined and transported to build them. Let alone all of the pollution created during that process.

          You mean like Uranium mining, which is literally never done responsibly and which has all the same inherent problems on top of nuclear mining tailings producing radioactive contamination of waterways? The fact is that nuclear plants continue to be a bad idea, while newer solar panels use less and less rare earths all the time, and wind power uses practically none.

          And Japan? Japan put a ton of reactors on a freaking crowded island, and then didn't bother to inspect them properly. (Any moron with a badge could have noticed their backup generators weren't on the required stilts above the waterline--which failed when flooded.) The story of Fukushima is a failure of government to regulate greedy corporations, not an inherent failure of technology.

          Yes, this is why nuclear power is a bad idea — because humans are involved. You have all the facts to piece together the truth, that nuclear

        • by MrKaos ( 858439 )

          I love how people who tout solar and wind as "clean" are actually a form of NIMBY because they don't mind all of the strip-mining at slave wages for all of the rare earth minerals that have to me mined and transported to build them. Let alone all of the pollution created during that process.

          Then you should look into the Nuclear Industry's mining practices. Radon from mine tailing polluting waterways. Acid leech mining that leaves behind megalitres of radioactive sulphuric acid. Really bad stuff.

          Slaves ar

  • by CaptainDork ( 3678879 ) on Tuesday November 29, 2016 @12:04AM (#53382493)

    ... because they skip right over human fallibility.

    Look at Katrina.

    Books were written about how New Orleans was a bowl below sea level, years and years ago.

    The Army Corps of Engineers, their brothers, nieces, and adoptive children knew the score.

    Look at the Mississippi floods. We know it does that and yet people live there.

    Look at earthquake-prone California.

    In the final analysis, we find that shit happens.

    • Look at earthquake-prone California.

      We regularly have earthquakes of magnitudes that knock down whole cities in other places, with literally zero property damage, because we have building codes that take earthquakes into account.

      Maybe the rest of the country (and the world!) should give this some consideration given that there is no place in the world which cannot have earthquakes, only places where they occur less frequently.

  • FFF they coulda built a fusion reactor like ITER or even DEMO for 1/8th the cost.

  • by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Tuesday November 29, 2016 @01:22AM (#53382731)
    Yes the cost is big. But everything about nuclear is big, including the amount of power generated. Fukushima Daiichi consisted of 6 reactors:

    #1 generated 460 MWe from March 1971 to April 2012, or 41.1 years
    #2 generated 784 MWe from July 1974 to April 2012, or 37.7 years
    #3 generated 784 MWe from March 1976 to April 2012, or 36.1 years
    #4 generated 784 MWe from October 1978 to April 2012, or 33.6 years
    #5 generated 784 MWe from April 1978 to Jan 2014, or 35.7 years
    #6 generated 1100 MWe from October 1979 to Jan 2014, or 34.2 years

    Multiply the generating capacity by the time in service and you get 165.7 TWh for reactor #1, 259.1 TWh for #2, 248.1 TWh for #3, 230.9 TWh for #4, 245.3 TWh for #5, and 329.8 TWh for #6. For a total of 1478.9 TWh.

    Nuclear's capacity factor in Japan [world-nuclear.org] (ratio of actual electricity generated vs peak capacity) started around 46% in the mid-1970s, and had reached 79% by 2001. Assume a linear increase followed by it remaining stable from 2001-2014, and overall capacity factor over this timeframe (which conveniently breaks down into 26 and 13 years) is (26*(.46+.79)/2 + 13*.79) / 39 = 0.68.

    So actual electricity generated by the plant would be about 1478.9 TWh * 0.68 = 1005.7 TWh. Round it down and call it an even 1000 TWh.

    The average price of electricity in Japan is 26 cents/kWh [ovoenergy.com]. Yes the price was lower in the past, but we want the inflation-adjusted total value of electricity generated, so using today's price is valid.

    1000 TWh * $0.26/kWh = $260 billion worth of electricity produced over the lifetime of the plant. Even with the second-worst and most expensive nuclear accident in history, the Fukushima Daiichi plant still produced more value in electricity than the cleanup cost.

    Now consider that the world generated 2731 TWh with nuclear in 2008 [wikipedia.org]. If you go with 20 cents/kWh as a global average electricity price, that's $546 billion worth of electricity generated by nuclear power each year. Add up the cost to clean up Fukushima ($200 billion), Chernobyl ($200 billion), and Three Mile Island ($1 billion). Amortized over the 37 years since the first of those accidents, the cost of cleaning up these nuclear accidents only works out to ($401 billion / 37 years) / (546 billion / 1 year) = 1.98% of the cost of electricity produced.

    Basically, the cost of cleaning up nuclear accidents is just 0.4 cents/kWh.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I admire your mathematics and reasoning, and I cry at the final monetisation of life-threatening danger being so many pennies a pound.
      Beyond that, it's "all profit", eh?
      Except for the dead, ill, dying, poisoned, forgotten. :(
      And except the unspoken lost opportunities, sunken in nuclear denialism.
      Cleaning up a nuclear accident isn't like cleaning out the toilet.
      People don't usually die lingering painful deaths when you don't clean the toilet bowl properly.

    • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

      by fnj ( 64210 )

      #1, 2, and 3 sure as hell didn't generate until April 2012 because they were all utterly destroyed in March 2011. The others I am not sure about. Also, you didn't make any account whatever of capacity factor. It certainly isn't 100.0% for ANY nuclear power plants.

    • Basically, the cost of cleaning up nuclear accidents is just 0.4 cents/kWh.

      Congratulations for your explanation. The conclusion is that nuclear power is OK, as long as you don't live close to a nuclear plant. You have made the perfect case for "Not in my backyard".
    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      We need a name for this, maybe "nuke maths"?

      Your calculation ignores two important factors. Firstly, the accident didn't just have monetary costs. It resulted in many people's lives being ruined. It is difficult to put a price on that, although the courts will try.

      Secondly, amoritizing over all nuclear energy generated, or even all energy generated by that plant, doesn't reflect the fact that the cost is not born evenly by all purchasers of said energy.

      Thirdly, it's a useless number. It only has meaning whe

    • by shilly ( 142940 )

      I'm very excited that you've demonstrated that Fukushima Daiichi produced more value in electricity than its cleanup cost (even if that uses some quite heroic assumptions, such as continuous operation at 100% of capacity, etc etc). But why would we only care about cleanup cost? There is also the costs of commissioning, and operating the plant to account for. Both of those will be really quite a big number as well. There are no precise numbers available for Fukushima in the public domain, but it would be pre

  • by kcelery ( 410487 ) on Tuesday November 29, 2016 @04:49AM (#53383173)

    Just wondering how large is 200B, then I search http://www.tradingeconomics.com/japan/gdp
    The 2016 Japanese GDP is about 4000B.

  • by shilly ( 142940 ) on Tuesday November 29, 2016 @06:23AM (#53383427)

    Anyone able to run the numbers properly? From my v rough back of the envelope, it looks like $200bn would buy you about 0.7TW of solar capacity in today's money, assuming no economies of scale (!!) Fukushima was about 5TW, I think.

    Just curious to know what magnitude of solar capacity could be created if governments put the scale of investment into it that goes into nuclear.

    • Re:Comparisons (Score:4, Informative)

      by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Tuesday November 29, 2016 @07:42AM (#53383667) Homepage Journal

      Anyone able to run the numbers properly? From my v rough back of the envelope, it looks like $200bn would buy you about 0.7TW of solar capacity in today's money,

      And this is just for the cleanup cost. The total lifetime cost will be vastly higher. And let's not forget that Tepco has literally lied about Fukushima at every turn. (I defy any reader to find any moment at which Tepco told the whole truth, even as they understood it.) The total cleanup cost will likely be much, much higher.

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