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Costs: Fuel, Operation, Waste Disposal & Life Cycle

Operating Costs

Fuel Costs

This is the total annual cost associated with the "burnup" of nuclear fuel resulting from the operation of the unit. This cost is based upon the amortized costs associated with the purchasing of uranium, conversion, enrichment, and fabrication services along with storage and shipment costs, and inventory (including interest) charges less any expected salvage value.

For a typical 1,000 MWe BWR or PWR, the approximate cost of fuel for one reload (replacing one third of the core) is about $40 million, based on an 18-month refueling cycle. The average fuel cost at a nuclear power plant in 2012 was 0.75 cents / kWh.

Because nuclear plants refuel every 18-24 months, they are not subject to fuel price volatility like natural gas and oil power plants.

Operations & Maintenance (O&M) Costs

This is the annual cost associated with the operation, maintenance, administration, and support of a nuclear power plant. Included are costs related to labor, material & supplies, contractor services, licensing fees, and miscellaneous costs such as employee expenses and regulatory fees. The average non-fuel O&M cost for a nuclear power plant in 2012 was 1.65 cents / kWh.

Production Costs

Production costs are the O&M and fuel costs at a power plant. Since 2001, nuclear power plants have achieved the lowest production costs between coal, natural gas and oil.

Fuel costs make up 30 percent of the overall production costs of nuclear power plants. Fuel costs for coal, natural gas and oil, however, make up about 80 percent of the production costs.

Costs Related to Waste Management

Funds Committed for the Nuclear Waste Fund

$35.8 billion (1/10th of a cent per kWh of electricity generated at nuclear power plants plus interest since 1983). Of the $35.8 billion, $10.8 billion has been spent. Payments to the Nuclear Waste Fund are included in the fuel costs.

Estimated Cost of Decommissioning

Per plant

$300 million to $500 million—includes estimated radiological, used fuel ($100 million) and site restoration costs (about $300 million).

Life-Cycle (Levelized) Costs

These are the estimated total costs versus the electricity output over the lifetime of a new power plant. Costs include construction, operations & maintenance, fuel and decommissioning. For life-cycle costs of nuclear, coal, and gas, see page 11 of NEI's white paper, The Cost of New Generating Capacity in Perspective. For estimated life-cycle costs for all technologies, see the Energy Information Administration.