In the wake of the Fukushima disaster, Germany was the first among a number of countries that announced plans to shut down nuclear reactors and cancel construction of new nuclear facilities. Germany currently gets about one quarter of its electric power from nuclear reactors, and replacing that output is clearly going to be costly. Siemens' estimate, though, far outstrips other guesses on just how much: According to Reuters, the country's second biggest utility company put the number at around €300 billion (though without a time frame). In September, the state-owned investment bank KfW said the switch would cost about €250 billion by 2020.
Among the other countries opting out of nuclear power are Belgium, Switzerland, and Mexico. The costs of these plans vary: In Switzerland, for example, about 40 percent of the country's power comes from five nuclear reactors. Analysis by a think tank called Schweizerische Energie-Stiftung suggested that replacing the reactors would cost 100 billion Swiss francs ($105 billion). Other observers predict that related increases in electricity prices will yield overall drops in the country's GDP.
The nuclear elephant in the EU's living room, of course, is France. The country gets more than 75 percent of its power from nuclear reactors, and instead of joining the exodus following Fukushima, it reiterated its commitment to nuclear energy. That hasn't stopped others from asking what it would cost to replace all of France's reactors, or at least decrease the country's dependence on the controversial energy source. One guess: Lowering nuclear's contribution to 20 percent of the country's total capacity by 2030—which would call for the shuttering of 46 the 58 reactors currently in operation—would cost €112 billion more than leaving the total at 70 percent.
Whether these countries spend in the hundreds of billions or the trillions, the cost of another accident looms over the calculations. Fukushima's cleanup will run upwards of $200 billion, while Chernobyl's has cost at least $235 billion.
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