The costs don't add up for nuclear power, according to a study by the Vermont Law School, and the high price tag of making nuclear energy safe is imperilling the industry.
Dr. Mark Cooper, Senior Fellow for Economic Analysis at the Institute for Energy and the Environment, argues that regulators are heaping more safety regulations on the nuclear industry that are uneconomic. He published his study, Nuclear Safety and Nuclear Economics.
"The U.S. and global experience with nuclear reactor development and operation provided a constant drum beat of incidents, near misses, and catastrophic accidents that demonstrated to regulators and the public that the concern about the safety of nuclear power was grounded in reality," writes Cooper.
"The cost of the most severe accidents (e.g. Chernobyl and Fukushima) run into the hundreds of billions of dollars. The worst case scenarios (e.g. New York or Los Angeles) would exceed a trillion dollars."
Cooper says the nuclear industry operates in a realm where real costs and benefits are suspended. Construction of nuclear power plants are subsidised, and the liabilities have been limited.
"If the owners and operators of nuclear reactors had to face the full liability of a nuclear accident or meet alternatives in a competition unfettered by subsidies, no one would have built a nuclear reactor in the past, no one would build one today, and anyone who owns a reactor would exit the nuclear business as quickly as they could."
Cooper states that Fukushima is a "real economic disaster" with a bill adding up to a quarter of a trillion dollars.
"Tokyo Electric Power Company, the fourth largest utility in the world, was instantly pulled into virtual bankruptcy, when its stock plunge 90 percent, notwithstanding liability limits and governmental commitments to shoulder much of the cost. The Japanese grid is under severe stress. The economy has been damaged.
"Safety regulators have known about these potential impacts, but they were hypothetical. Fukushima makes them real."