[Report] Industrial fiasco and political fantasy: “new nuclear” will cost (a lot) more than it looks


[Report] Industrial fiasco and political fantasy: “new nuclear” will cost (a lot) more than it looks

In a report published today, Greenpeace France warns of the implausible costs and timetables announced by Electricité de France (EDF) for the construction of six EPR2 reactors, a project likely to weigh heavily on taxpayers.

France’s energy giant has not paid heed to the EPR sector track record in France and worldwide. Even forecasted figures that factor in the potential 30% increase in costs announced by Les Échos magazine on 4 March are far from credible.

Construction and financing costs in excess of €100 billion

Feedback from the EPR sector indicates a systematic underestimation of costs and construction times. Figures in the Greenpeace report “The cost of ‘new era’ nuclear: the unbearable lightness of EDF” published today suggest a final bill of more than €100 billion for the six planned EPR2 reactors – nearly 50% more than EDF’s latest estimate, in 2020, of €67.4 billion, which includes neither financing costs nor inflation. This calculation is based on two things: a rough estimate of costs and timetables comparable with first-generation EPR construction outcomes, and the inclusion of financing costs, which are absent from EDF estimates.

“The latest information released on the increase in programme costs and EPR2 design delays shows that EDF has not kicked its bad habit of quoting costs and deadlines that are divorced from reality”, says Pauline Boyer, Nuclear Campaign Officer at Greenpeace France.

A sinister “series effect”

While on average it took 156 months to build the three EPR reactors in operation worldwide and the Flamanville reactor (which is not yet on line), EDF is counting on “series effects” in its prediction of a 105-month build time for the first round of EPR2s and 90 months for the last reactor. The only such effect seen in first-generation EPR programmes, however, has been a series of building delay disasters.

Illusionary profitability

Of key concern is the estimated cost of EPR2-produced electricity, which will directly impact public finances and consumers, who sooner or later will see a hike in their energy bills.  The Greenpeace report estimates an economic current cost of between €135 and €176/MWh. Given a current cost of €70/MWh, the profitability of the “new nuclear” project is totally compromised.

These ridiculously underestimated projections have been approved by the auditing firms NucAdvisor and Accuracy. For Greenpeace, the choice of these firms is questionable: both have a track record of approving inaccurate financial projections for nuclear projects.

Greenpeace France asks the government to back out of its exorbitant fantasy of “new nuclear”.

“In a context of climate crisis and the need for rapid and effective measures, we condemn the unbearable lightness of EDF and the French government in its relaunch of an energy that is too slow to roll out, dangerous, unaffordable and a source of unmanageable waste. Such recklessness will lead France’s energy transition straight to defeat”, concludes Pauline Boyer.

>> Read the summary report in English or the full report in French here