The Economics of the Back End of the Nuclear Fuel Cycle


The feasibility and costs of spent nuclear fuel management and the consequent disposal of ultimate waste continue to be the subject of public debate in many countries, with particular concern often expressed over the lack of progress in implementing final disposal. Uncertainties about back-end costs and the financial risks associated with management of the back end have also been singled out as possible deterrents to investment in new nuclear power plants.

This report offers an appraisal of economic issues and methodologies for the management of spent nuclear fuel and high-level waste from commercial power reactors. It includes a review of different back-end options and current policies and practices, with a focus on the cost estimates for these options and the funding mechanisms in place or under consideration in OECD/NEA countries. A generic economic assessment of high-level estimates of back-end cost impacts on fuel cycle costs is undertaken for selected idealised scenarios, by means of a simple static model. Sensitivity analyses are conducted for the evaluation of uncertainties in major components and the identification of cost drivers. Since factors other than economics are an important part of the decision-making process, an analysis of the influence of key qualitative parameters in the selection of back-end strategies is also presented in this report.