The ‘nuclear power myth’ has now collapsed not just in terms of safety but also in terms of cost
Solar power, an eco-friendly and renewable source of energy, could overtake nuclear power to become the cheapest form of energy by 2030, the Japanese government has said.Observers call it the first example of government predictions parting ways with the traditional assumption in energy policy — namely that renewable energy sources are expensive, while nuclear energy is relatively inexpensive.The Asahi Shimbun newspaper Tuesday quoted the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry as having announced estimates the day before putting the cost of solar-powered energy — for commercial purposes — at between 8 and 12 yen per kilowatt-hour by 2030, making it less expensive than nuclear power — between 11.5 and 12 yen per kilowatt-hour.The Japanese government’s estimates of the costs of nuclear power have been consistently rising.In a 2011 prediction, it estimated that the cost would be 8.9 yen/kWh by 2030. That estimate was raised to 10.3 yen/kWh in 2015, and again to nearly 12 yen in the latest announcement.While nuclear power has long been perceived as the least expensive energy source, it is expected to slip to fourth place in terms of minimum estimates, as it falls behind onshore wind power (9–17 yen) and liquefied natural gas (LNG, 10–14 yen) as well.Factors behind the rise in nuclear power costs include associated safety measures and waste disposal. Increased regulation in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant disaster has necessitated construction efforts for measures such as containment of the spread of radioactive materials, while the costs of compensation and decommissioning in the event of a disaster have also risen.Other factors cited as driving up costs include reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel and radioactive waste disposal.In contrast, the ministry predicted the total costs of solar power generation would gradually drop thanks to technological innovations and mass adoption. According to its calculations, they are poised to fall from nearly 13 yen/kWh in 2020 to the range of “8–12 yen/kWh” ten years later in 2030.The cost calculations were arrived at by dividing the amount of money spent to build power generation facilities, and to continue operating them for a sufficient period of time until their closure, by the total amount of power generated.