Potential Cost Of A Nuclear Accident? So High It’s A Secret!

Wolf Richter's picture

Wolf Richter   www.testosteronepit.com   www.amazon.com/author/wolfrichter

Catastrophic nuclear accidents, like Chernobyl in 1986 or Fukushima No. 1 in 2011, are very rare, we’re incessantly told, 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, 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 a single reactor at the plant chosen for the study, the plant at Dampierre in the Department of Loiret in north-central France, would amount to over three times the country’s GDP. Financially, France would cease to exist as we know it.

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.

“One trillion, that’s what Fukushima will ultimately cost,” Repussard said.

Part of the €5.8 trillion would be the “astronomical social costs due to the high number of victims,” the report stated. The region contaminated by cesium 137 would cover much of France and Switzerland, all of Belgium and the Netherlands, and a big part of Germany—an area with 90 million people (map). The costs incurred by farmers, employees, and companies, the environmental damage and healthcare expenses would amount to €4.4 trillion.

“Those are social costs, but the victims may not necessarily be compensated,” the report stated ominously—because there would be no entity in France that could disburse those kinds of amounts.

Closer to the plant, 5 million people would have to be evacuated from an area of 87,000 square kilometers (about 12% of France) and resettled. The soil would have to be decontaminated, and radioactive waste would have to be treated and disposed of. Total cost: €475 billion.

The weather is the big unknown. Yet it’s crucial in any cost calculations. Winds blowing toward populated areas would create the worst-case scenario of €5.8 trillion. Amidst the horrible disaster of Fukushima, Japan was nevertheless lucky in one huge aspect: winds pushed 80% of the radioactive cloud out to sea. If it had swept over Tokyo, the disaster would have been unimaginable. In Chernobyl, winds made the situation worse; they spread the cloud over the Soviet Union.

Yet the study might underestimate the cost for other nuclear power plants. The region around Dampierre has a lower population density than regions around other nuclear power plants. And it rarely has winds that would blow the radioactive cloud in a northerly direction toward Paris. Other nuclear power plants aren’t so fortuitously located.

These incidents have almost no probability of occurring, we’re told. So there are currently 437 active nuclear power reactors and 144 “permanent shutdown reactors” in 31 countries, according to the IAEA, for a total of 581 active and inactive reactors. Of these, four melted down so far—one at Chernobyl and three at Fukushima. Hence, the probability for a meltdown is not infinitesimal. Based on six decades of history, it’s 4 out of 581, or 0.7%. One out of every 145 reactors. Another 67 are under construction, and more are to come....

Decommissioning and dismantling the powerplant at Fukushima and disposing of the radioactive debris has now been estimated to take 40 years. At this point, two years after the accident, very little has been solved. But it has already cost an enormous amount of money. People who weren’t even born at the time of the accident will be handed the tab for it. And the ultimate cost might never be known.

The mayor of Futaba, a ghost town of once upon a time 7,000 souls near Fukushima No. 1, told his staff that evacuees might not be able to return for 30 years. Or never, for the older generation. It was the first estimate of a timeframe. But it all depends on successful decontamination. And that has turned into a vicious corruption scandal. Read.... Corruption At “Decontaminating” Radioactive Towns In Japan.

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
Mediocritas's picture

For those who fear radioactive contamination of the environment due to nuclear power, I encourage you to consider how much uranium, thorium, etc, goes into the air every day due to the combustion of coal and other fossil fuels.


Over 100 tons of Uranium alone, every week.

All this stuff conspiring to kill us yet we're living longer than ever, go figure.

scrappy's picture

Countermeasures to share with your community...


This is what us Gardeners Need to detox soil and ourselves

calcium bentonite clay


Get this NOW





Not Too Important's picture

These measures would only work on a one-time exposure to radiation, such as after a nuclear bomb explosion. The situation now is continuous bio-accumulation, in the air, water and food. The levels of continuous 'background' radiation are only going to increase, exponentially, causing downward genetic mutation and extinction.

There is nothing to be done about Fukushima. There are over a dozen other NPP's in Japan that are on the brink of meltdown - if not already happening - that will only add to the worldwide levels of ambient radiation.

It would be prudent to close them all and try and slow the process down, but no one in charge seems to care.

Element's picture

Frankly its shameless for Ukraine to still be claiming it can't afford to put a new structure over its snafu reactor out of its own pocket, for going on 30 years after the 'accident', but keeps trying to extract money out of other state's taxpayers to do it for them.

Just 'effing shameless. Lazy sods.

Walt D.'s picture

France's biggest economic threat is Socialism. The difference is that the losses from Socialism are certain, whereas the loss from a catatastrophic nuclear disaster is less than 4000 to 1 in any year (based on historical data - extrapolation may not be valid to 40 year old units going forward).

However, if all of France's nuclear units were to go offline during a very cold winter, people in the UK and Germany who rely on this surplus power will freeze to death.


Not Too Important's picture

The world's lifeforms have survived for hundreds of thousands of years, possibly millions, without nuclear electricity.

They will not survive another 100.

Bennie Noakes's picture

It's a puzzle. The French are terrified of MacDonald's Hamburger stands, but they seem perfectly OK with having nuclear reactors all across their beautiful country.

Granted that France is not situated on a "ring of fire" where tectonic plates collide and doesn't seem to have many earthquakes or tsunamis. Still, France is a really pretty country and is fairly densely populated. And it must have at least a few terrorists.

Let's hope for the best because France really is a great place to visit and there's really nothing that can compare to French cuisine. It would kind of spoil the mood if you had to always remember to bring your Geiger counter before entering a French restaurant.

Radical Marijuana's picture

Atomic energy is the leading symbol of the runaway triumph of Neolithic civilization becoming criminally insane. The paradoxes we face were driven by this series of events: when people do not agree, then they fight. When they fought, those who were the best at being deceitful tended to win those fights. Gradually, that produced the current social pyramid systems, where the sovereign states were selected by the history that made War King, which sovereign powers were then taken over by the continued application of the methods of organized crime by the biggest gangsters, the banksters, to make Fraud King.

The real world systems today are that almost all countries have central banks, which are the Fraud King of that country, and then there is the King of Kings of Fraud, which is the Bank of International Settlements. Those systems of triumphant frauds, backed by force, are directed by banksters, which effectively control governments. Those banksters control the funding of everything, especially including the funding of the political processes and the mass media, as well as historically had their foundations dominate the funding of educational institutions. Therefore, "democracy" is actually a cruel joke, which is a false front for fascist plutocracy, where the plutocrats were made to be the most wealthy people by gaining the power to create "money" out of nothing, as debts, while they corrupted almost all governments to force everyone else to agree to go along with that runaway fraud.

Those are the basic conditions inside which things like atomic energy was advanced. There is a global electronic fiat money fraud, backed up by weapons of mass destruction, like atomic bombs. The military imperatives in the minds of the War Kings drove the development of atomic bombs, which process meanwhile was a massive subsidy of the development of atomic power. However, all of those decisions were made inside of an economic system which is based on a fundamentally fraudulent financial accounting system, whose basis is the privatized, legalized counterfeiting of the money supply, by privately owned banks, that controlled governments to give them that power, while those government force everyone else to accept and adapt to living inside of those social systems which are based upon legalized lies, backed by legalized violence, in every possible way that one examines those systems.

Therefore, atomic power plants are merely the most extreme particular example of completely crazy and corrupt governments accepting their roles to legalize lies, and to back up those legalized lies with legalized violence. Our whole civilization is dominated by professional liars and immaculate hypocrites. The nuclear power industry especially represents how those trends manifested.

The bottom line is that ALL money is ALWAYS backed by murder. It is impossible for the real world to operate in any other way. The realities of social facts are especially astonishing since the structure of our society as a social pyramid system depends upon there being a basic human ecology where the death controls are actually operated by people who fulfil the roles of the top carnivores, who are metaphorically the Vicious Wolf People, who act as the predatory parasites upon the vast majority of the prey people, who metaphorically act like Zombie Sheep People.

A scientific appreciation of the basic social facts necessarily reveals the central and crucial role of the death controls, or the murder systems, which originally made and maintained all of the other systems, such as the monetary and taxation systems. We now have the feedback loops wherein the money system pays for the murder systems, which murder systems then back up the money systems. Again, that is the real context in which atomic power plants were developed.

As the first comment on this article suggests, but got the details wrong, I believe, every possible decision made necessarily has consequences which amount to operational death controls. It is NOT possible to avoid that dilemma. The deeper dilemmas are that there are infinite tunnels of deceits, generated by the history of militarism, and the monetary systems, which had the War Kings become the Fraud Kings. Their success depended upon them being the best liars, and hypocrites.

Our whole civilization operates through the maximum possible deceits about itself. Again, that is the context in which "we" decided to develop atomic bombs, which then subsidized the development of atomic energy. The theoretical alternatives of having better murder systems to do better death controls, so that the monetary systems, and related debt controls, would make the most overall sense for the most people for the longest period of time are the OPPOSITE of what actually happens.

The development of atomic energy has illustrated how our society is controlled by deceits, which maximize the short-term benefits of a few, while also maximizing the longer term costs for everyone else. Atomic power plants are the ultimate expression of privatizing the profits, while socializing the losses. Nobody but governments can get away with doing that! Unfortunately, there are no practical solutions, other than to watch and wait, as we muddle through this madness. Since people will not agree, and instead will have implacable conflicts, they will continue to fight. Those fights will continue to generate deceits, and cause destruction. The history that made those who were the best at being dishonest the most successful people will continue to drive the social pyramid systems to become more criminally insane, while there do not appear to be any realistic and practical alternatives.

It is appears impossible to have a saner open debate about how human beings should actually operate the necessary death controls. Instead, we are already inside of runaway systems of triumphant financial frauds, which are backed up by the powers of sovereign states, which gained those powers through the history of warfare. The history of war drove the imperatives which made weapons of mass destruction, and the history of the monetary system matched that, by enabling the Fraud Kings to take effective control over those states' governments, in order to legalize lies, and back those lies up with legalized violence.

To summarize the above in one oversimplified statement: atomic bombs made, and maintain, atomic power plants.


All-Time Darwin Award: The Nuclear Industry

Too bad, so sad, that the FKN NEWZ was accurate!

Atomic energy amplified human greed and stupidity by many orders of magnitude.

Of course, what else? Multiply old-fashioned human nature by trillions of times  ...


Fukushima Update - This is NOT a Drill - FKNNews

rlouis's picture

The Darwin Awards! How many generations of inbred elites does it take to accumulate the wealth of the world?  We'll never know, they killed off the species - THAT is the ultimate Darwin Award. I figured an asteroid would do it first, but it's a more matter of probabilities.

Getting Old Sucks's picture

I just wish everybody would get their head out of their asses.  Fukushima WILL eventually make the entire globe a nuclear wateland, PERIOD!  Not going to explain if you don't believe.  Eat, drink and be merry.............

shovelhead's picture

Sounds like you'll be checking out soon anyway, so you might as well relax.

Getting Old Sucks's picture

Easy for me but sad for my children and grandchildren.

Fred Garvin's picture

France won't need a nuclear accident to "financialy cease to exist as we know it", just having the banks mark assets to market should do it.

In a related story, the Citreon Automible plant was completely destroyed in a huge explosion. It is estimated that over $75.00 worth of damage was done.

andrewp111's picture

A nuclear disaster  would be a great time to mark the French bank assets to market. Things will already be so bad that no one will notice the collapse of a few big banks. Then the EU could make an emergency move to a pure MMT system, and they wouldn't need private banks anymore.

Bunga Bunga's picture

No problemo, AIG will insure that risk.

Walt D.'s picture

$5.8 trillion loss = 4 or 5 years of Obama.

are we there yet's picture

Obama can retire in Kenya. There are no nuclear reactorors anywhere near there.

Fix It Again Timmy's picture

Nuclear power just might be the genie that drains the human gene pool.  We should have known better....

unplugged's picture

No problem - Bennie Boy would just print up a fresh batch of $dough and send it over the pond - problem solved - next...

medium giraffe's picture

Thank goodness there aren't many nuclear accidents, eh?:


('bout 5 a decade? although the '80s were a bit special)


Bicycle Repairman's picture

The nuclear plant era began around 1953, so it's been about 60 years.  In that time there have been two major disasters that have been publicly admitted to.  Simple math says one every 30 years, although the set of nuclear plants is much older now.  Since we cannot clean these things up, ever, how many accidents need to accumulate before the show is over.  I'd say three more, which gives humanity, and maybe life, 100 years.  Tops.


The Abstraction of Justice's picture

What happens, if, with advanced in molecular biology, someone invents a generic cure of all cancers? Would that not leave contamination as a non-issue?

Bicycle Repairman's picture

What about a "Time Tunnel"?  Then we could all go back to the 19th century when there wasn't any nuclear power.  Then we'd have 200 years.

Matt's picture

Not counting several meltdowns and leaks in the '50s and '60s in America that were covered up at research facilities, and likely just as many in the former Soviet Union around the same time.

Here's a couple:

Sodium Reactor Experiment, 1957, partial meltdown, Simi Valley California:


Chalk River Laboratories, Canada: 1952 AND 1958:


q99x2's picture

So two for two as far as the two worst nuclear accidents destroying the nations that they happen in. Which country is going to be 3rd? My bet is on the US since the big earthquakes have yet to strike. In China they seem more likely to die from suffocation. Banksters are not very good at controlling things but they have an excellent record for destroying.

sangell's picture

So far, nuclear reactor incidents have happened in large nations with advanced economies and technology. What happens when there is a reactor accident in a third world nation without the resources or an indigenous nuclear engineering and scientific base? This problem, as much as weapons development ought to guide our thinking on the development of nuclear power plants. If Japan could barely contain ( so far) Fukushima what chance would Mexico or Iran have?

andrewp111's picture

Simple. They just cover it up with lots of dirt and gravel. Accident? What accident? We don't know about any stinkin' accident.

drink or die's picture

Google "Iraq depleted uranium birth defects" to find out what happens when there is a nuclear accident in a 3rd world country...

koperniuk666's picture

any of you idiots been to chernobyl? 


I went last summer and its just FINE,

nothing to worry about nothing to see move along.

Nuke - cheap clean and plentiful and safe.

how many killed in nuke accidents ever???

how many killed in coal mine accidents each YEAR in china ALONE?

you dont know fuck all

Dieselclam's picture

So 666, you took the propaganda tour and everything is just ducky? Suck my radioactive dick, you moron. In the 14 weeks following the Fukushima disaster, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly (published by the CDC) noted a stastically significant increase in deaths in the United States that EXACTLY matched the post-Chernobyl death rates. 14,000 additional deaths above the mean average means something to families who lost members. http://blogs.theprovince.com/2012/01/09/14000-u-s-deaths-linked-to-fukus...

Having lived 51 years in Washington state with Hanford affecting the health of friends and family, all I can say is you are a fucking tourist, period.

medium giraffe's picture

Did you have a nice walk through the Red Forest whilst you were there in Chernobyl?  Probably not because you still seem to be alive (unless you're a small shell script, hard to tell).



El Viejo's picture




I'm more worried about the "list" to come as this stuff leaches into the ground water.

consuming(breathing or ingesting) radioactive particles is the worst way to come in contact with radioactivity.  And a slow death is the worst death.

Not Too Important's picture

Hanford leaking into the Columia River. WIPP already leaking into the Ogallala Aquifer. North America's biggest NPP site at Tiverton, Ontario, Canada is leaking into Lake Huron. How many people depend on these water supplys for fresh water? All the nuclear plants are leaking into the water supply they are built on. The biomagnification of this radioactivity in our water supply is killing off all life.

There is no storage for enriched nuclear fuel. Dry cask storage requires new casking every 20 years, for 20,000 years plus. Whatever is presently in underground tanks will leach into the local water supply. Spent fuel storage pools cannot EVER be allowed to run dry, for 100,000 years plus.


TBT or not TBT's picture

Pffft. Dilute it down into large enough quantities of glass and bury like the rocks they are. Done. Or better yet, recycle.

Not Too Important's picture

The radioactive glass turns to radioactive sand. The radioactive sand will eventually burn its' way down to a water source. This is a major problem at Chernobyl.

There is no complete solution, only delayed contamination strategies of various costs.

mt paul's picture

you sir know not what you type

i am a master glassblower/glass chemist

once you melt radioactive material into glass

it will never break down to " sand " ever again

physical imposibility..

Not Too Important's picture

Radioative glass, a mix of corium and sand, was found in Chernobyl. At about 16:20 in:


The scientists who have been there for decades go on to talk about how these very large amounts of radioactive glass are turning into radioactive sand, and considering the condition of both the plant and the sarcophagus, they are concerned this sand will eventually be thrown up into the atmosphere.

Vitrification will concentrate the glass - eventually sand - into containers buried in the earth. This concentrated radioactive sand, based on existing Chernobyl research, will burn through its' containment, and will eventually sink to the water table. The alternative to this scenario is that the sand recombines and begins recriticality, and I don't want to go there.

If anyone is into video explanations, here's the gold standard on nuclear waste:


Element's picture

No, mt paul glass-blower is right, you have no clue at all, a prime example of the saying, "a little knowledge is dangerous thing", or what used to be called a half-smart fool. 

Firstly, the process you are referring to is de-vitrification, as vitrification is the exact opposite, the creation of glass (look up the word vitreous, and don;t use words you don;t know what they mean).

Secondly you on;y have to go to the top of a sand dune on a windy day to see that sand sized-grains of weathered quartz silicate is propelled no more than a few feet than fall to the ground again. As would occur to any 'sand' created by devitrification. i.e. it could be vacuumed up in seconds in that case

Usually devitrification of a molten slag, which is what this mass at Chernobyl actually is, decomposes into a moist and very viscous sticky paste of hydrous minerals due to exposure to atmospheric moisture that hydrates the glassy slag (which btw is nothing whatsoever like 'sand'). In which case re-mobilization by rain water is the potential problem at that point, not a collapsing roof structure blowing sand or dust into the air (which would actually be highly localized, about 5km downwind at the very worst, given there's no heat or explosive energy potential remaining to propel thermally it any higher altitude than about 200m).

Thirdly, the reason why the "elephants' foot" stopped moving is because it's thermal energy fell due to its nuclear mean-free-path distance falling to much lower levels during that mobilisation and dilution process, and the reactivity of fissile atoms likewise fell as a result. It was then too dilute to create enough heat to remain at low viscosity, to be able to flow like a slow moving liquid. In fact it had become too diluted for the fissile component to react, long before it stopped flowing. It only kept flowing as far as it did due to the heat that the molten mass already contained, retained from the earlier nuclear heating. It takes time to lose that heat, especially when insulated in concrete that has low thermal conductivity. The longer it continued to flow due to its residual heat, the more melt dilution of the fissile components occurred, and the greater the average mean-free-path between fissile atoms increased (i.e. to far below critical nuclear reactivity levels needed for generating more heat to keep it moving).

Fourth, any person now suggesting that the combined silicate dilution of the fissile components, and exponential decay of the radionuclide daughter products in such a devitrifying detritus (glass naturally decays into feldspar mineralogy btw), is going to be able to re-melt in future has not got any clue whatsoever about radioactive decay, and fissile reactivity, and does not understand at all the implications of the exponential function. You have not had any sort of scientific education and are not even honest enough with yourself to admit this, that you know nothing of what you speak, but it's apparent enough to others you are an ignorant crank and a moron.

Fifth, anyone suggesting such a 'sand' is going to then "... burn through ...", the foundations and sink down to the water table as a molten mass and poison the region forever is just a hopeless dickhead, at best.


All through this thread you have established that this is what you are. Another profoundly befuddled refugee from ENENEWS, come to preach to everyone your pathetic ignorant beliefs in their moronic dysinfo propaganda memes. But how exactly does it help to sprout that utter bullshit when you clearly know nothing of what you speak? Get an education, or shut up, you're contributing nothing but laughably ignorant lies.

Bicycle Repairman's picture

"how many killed in nuke accidents ever???"

LOL.  Get bent.

Not Too Important's picture

You clearly missed the mutated children, or the jellyfish babies born with no skeletons.

Here, in the interest of sharing knowledge, are some photos of what you gloriously missed on your tour:

Chernobyl babies -


Chernobyl mutations -


Chernobyl mutations people -



falak pema's picture

do you know how many people got infected in 1986 and suffered death or other debilitating consequences; and what it cost to build all those structures and what the incidental economic costs were?

Bastiat's picture

I hear the wolves keep getting bigger.

Rustysilver's picture

PBS in US had a program on Chernobyl's wolves: called radioactive wolves.  They were measuring radioactivity in the wolf's fur.


scrappy's picture

My buddy did just go there to hunt believe it or not.

Not Too Important's picture

I hope he didn't eat any of it. If he did, he shouldn't have children.

lolmao500's picture

Yeah I remember reading a lot of stuff about that after the Fukushima incident...

Europe is screwed if that ever happens, it'll cost them several trillions if I remember right.

Ahmeexnal's picture

Go long neutron spallation!

Joebloinvestor's picture

If people were aware of what nuclear energy really costs they would rethink the building or at the very least, the location.

Given that a "event" will render the surrounding area uninhabitable for thousands of years.

Also, long term storage of radioactive waste is really not addressed.