French RE 'to beat nukes' on cost

Renewable energy will be more affordable than power generated by upgraded nuclear plants in France by 2020, a report by environmental group Greenpeace claims.

The study shows that as nuclear reactors are upgraded to meet new safety requirements in the aftermath of Japan’s Fukushima disaster, maintenance of reactors for the next 40 years becomes very expensive compared to onshore wind and solar.

A parliamentary committee said last week that the rising cost of French nuclear energy is causing concern, and the government should set up independent expert institutions to help it plan long-term energy investments.

According to Greenpeace, the investment needed to upgrade French utility EDF’s 58 nuclear reactors to bring them close to the safety level of a new generation EPR reactor, would raise median production costs to €133 ($180) per megawatt-hour.

Reuters reports that estimate, based on an extension of the lifespan of current reactors by ten to 50 years and €4.4bn worth of work per reactor, would make nuclear less competitive than onshore wind around 2015.

Greenpeace also sees the cost of PV power falling to less than €134/MWh by around 2019 from more than €250/MWh today, making it competitive with the renovated French nuclear plants by that time.