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Taking an Updated Look at a Potential Accident’s Economic Consequences

Rich Correia
Director, Division of Risk Analysis
Office of Nuclear Regulatory Research

The NRC’s review of new reactor licenses, renewal of existing licenses or major changes to our safety regulations involves an analysis of the impacts of potential accidents. Long before the 2011 accident at Fukushima, these analyses included the possibility of radioactive contamination causing economic harm, such as by making land unusable. Now, the Commission — after considering recommendations from the agency’s technical and legal staff — has directed the NRC staff to update our guidance on considering economic consequences.

Property damage, business losses and other accident effects were a regular part of our public conversations last year as the NRC began implementing the lessons learned from the Fukushima accident. Subsequently, we decided to review the agency’s current economic consequence analysis and consider options for possibly changing the process.

In following this Commission-directed update, the agency will examine the information used in comparing the costs and benefits of a potential safety rule change or nuclear power plant modification. For example, we’ll revise the costs of replacing a damaged reactor’s electricity output, since generation and transmission markets have been deregulated in some cases. We’ll also consider how changes in Federal Energy Regulatory Commission rules have affected transmission costs. We’ll revise our guidance for economic consequences costs based on up-to-date data and what we’ve learned from recent and ongoing accident analysis (such as last year’s State-of-the-art Reactor Consequences Analyses).

Following the Commission’s direction, we’re going to develop a follow-on paper that describes and assesses for Commission consideration potential changes to our cost-benefit analysis guidance. We’ll be holding a public meeting in the near future as part of this process, so members of the public and other interested parties can hear the staff’s plans, ask questions and provide comments to the staff.

The Commissioners’ individual votes on this decision are available on the NRC website.

7 responses to “Taking an Updated Look at a Potential Accident’s Economic Consequences

  1. Patricia Gracian March 22, 2013 at 6:19 pm

    I have yet to see the NRC and the utilities involved add the potential cost of lawsuits associated with the 100% destruction of land and house values from the millions of property owners within the fallout area of a nuclear catastrophe at San Onofre. I for sure will sue when we have a catastrophe that lets out ANY radioactivity from San Onofre upon my properties in San Diego County, and I will expect to get the present-day market value of said properties, which I am documenting NOW. My little set of holdings is about 1 million, and I am not considered to be wealthy by any means. Multiply THAT by all of the other properties that stand to go to ZERO value upon contamination from a radioactive misfortune.
    As businessmen, these foolhardy owners of this threat known as SONGS, should be scrambling to shut down the threat and REMOVE any and all radioactive spent and active materials currently stored anywhere close to MILLIONS of valuable California properties. A responsible owner of such a threat should be scrambling to remove said detritus to some much-less costly and much-less populated area where their liability can be controlled to some manageable amount.

  2. john bowers March 21, 2013 at 7:14 pm

    Nuclear power takes lands of milk and honey, and turns them into lands of radioactive milk and radioactive honey which will kill people who ingest them, and cause birth defects in children for generations. How close did the U.S. Corn Belt come to being Fukushima’ed in June 2011? The public has the idea plants can’t explode, but so far the two supercatastrophes of Chernobyl and Fukushima both involved explosions, the latter with a dirty brown mushroom cloud with what appeared to be fuel rods falling back out. Sooner or later a supercatastrophe happens so the risk is 100%. The cost is beyond price, as ‘they are not making land anymore’. Then there is the ‘routine emission’ of radioactive pollutants. I quit buying apple cider from a press in southeast Kansas after learning how close it is to Wolf Creek. I did not buy watermelons originating from a particular grower, after finding out the farm area was within 70 miles of Fort Calhoun. I don’t drink milk or buy dairy products if they are from the West Coast. How many cases of cancer and death resulted from salads made from vegetables grown downwind of Semi Valley? How many still are? Nuclear engineers and executives ought to convert their skills to scientific and political/industrial breakthroughs in photovoltaics and battery storage of electrical power. Or in replicating the work of those who have split water at an energy profit. We could be desalinating ocean water and pumping it to wherever farmers need it, if we could do that, and it instead of putting whole breadbaskets at risk and slowly polluting them up between major accidents. I think eyes have to be closed and inmost being blinded, to be able to put a price on the value of an area the size of a large western state and justify the continuing risk.

    • CaptD March 23, 2013 at 3:44 pm

      John, You are part of a growing number of Americans (and other Globally) that now see Nuclear Power for what it is: Costly, Waste Making and so RISKY that if the USA has even one Fukushima type nuclear accident, it will destroy our fiscal system and change the World as we now know it!

      Left unsaid is that the Utilities are trying every trick in the book to protect their market share and as they become more desperate they will fight any additional safety measures that they have to pay for, which makes all reactors even more RISKY…

      • Hiddencamper March 25, 2013 at 3:55 pm

        Its a shame for your argument, that polls in most countries including the US show nuclear power as favorable, with a majority stating they would be ok with new nuclear plants being built.

  3. CaptD March 20, 2013 at 4:45 pm

    You should start with this one:
    French Nuclear Disaster Scenario Was So Bad The Government Kept It Secret http://www.businessinsider.com/potential-cost-of-a-nuclear-accident-so-high-its-a-secret-2013-3 via @bi_contributors
    Catastrophic nuclear accidents, like Chernobyl in 1986 or Fukushima No. 1 in 2011, are, we’re incessantly told, very rare, and their probability of occurring infinitesimal.
    But when they do occur, they get costly. So costly that the French government, when it came up with cost estimates for an accident in France, kept them secret.
    But now the report was leaked to the French magazine, Le Journal de Dimanche. Turns out, the upper end of the cost spectrum of an accident at the nuclear power plant at Dampierre, in the Department of Loiret in north-central France, amounted to over three times the country’s GDP.
    Hence, the need to keep it secret. The study was done in 2007 by the Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN), a government agency under joint authority of the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Environment, Industry, Research, and Health.With over 1,700 employees, it’s France’s “public service expert in nuclear and radiation risks.” This isn’t some overambitious, publicity-hungry think tank.
    It evaluated a range of disaster scenarios that might occur at the Dampierre plant. In the best-case scenario, costs came to €760 billion—more than a third of France’s GDP. At the other end of the spectrum: €5.8 trillion! Over three times France’s GDP. A devastating amount. So large that France could not possibly deal with it.
    Yet, France gets 75% of its electricity from nuclear power. The entire nuclear sector is controlled by the state, which also owns 85% of EDF, the mega-utility that operates France’s 58 active nuclear reactors spread over 20 plants. So, three weeks ago, the Institute released a more politically correct report for public consumption. It pegged the cost of an accident at €430 billion.
    “There was no political smoothening, no pressure,” claimed IRSN Director General Jacques Repussard, but he admitted, “it’s difficult to publish these kinds of numbers.” He said the original report with a price tag of €5.8 trillion was designed to counter the reports that EDF had fabricated, which “very seriously underestimated the costs of the incidents.”
    Both reports were authored by IRSN economist Patrick Momal, who struggled to explain away the differences. The new number, €430 billion, was based on a “median case” of radioactive releases, as was the case in Fukushima, he told the JDD, while the calculations of 2007 were based more on what happened at Chernobyl. But then he added that even the low end of the original report, the €760 billion, when updated with the impact on tourism and exports, would jump to €1 trillion.

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