Nukenomics: The commercialisation of Britain’s nuclear industry

Ian Jackson’s book Nukenomics: The commercialisation of Britain’s nuclear industry is reviewed by Nuclear Engineering International magazine and reproduced with permission.

The British nuclear industry is once again experiencing rapid and turbulent commercial change, transforming from a handful of public sector owned organisations into a series of private sector ones ready to tackle Britain’s £100-billion-plus nuclear cleanup legacy.

At the same time, just when the future of nuclear energy looked set to be in terminal decline, the politics of global warming have delivered a dramatic return to respectability for nuclear power. Significant investment in new British nuclear power stations now seems almost certain; a situation that was unthinkable just a few years ago.

The restructuring of Britain’s nuclear industry, and the resulting implications for the private sector, are explained in Ian Jackson’s book Nukenomics – The commercialisation of Britain’s nuclear industry, published in 2008. This Nuclear Engineering International special publication describes the major trends and market forces that are actively shaping the future development of the nuclear industry today, by explaining not just what things are happening but, more fundamentally, why.

Nukenomics explores the dynamics of this newly revitalised nuclear market by looking at five major commercial themes addressing key business questions.

  • Chapter 1, Paying for Nuclear Clean-up: The Decommissioning Market, explains why nuclear decommissioning costs paid for by British taxpayers are skyrocketing and how the government is attempting to bring these costs under control through privatisation of the nuclear industry. After examining the underlying factors responsible for driving an explosion in nuclear decommissioning costs, Chapter 1 analyses the market opportunity for nuclear cleanup firms and the scale of the financial risks and rewards available to market investors. The chapter explains the strategic dilemmas and paradoxes intrinsic within the restructured nuclear market and how private sector companies can best position themselves to exploit the commercial opportunities presented.
  • Chapter 2, Sites for Sale: Selling Nuclear Real Estate, looks at the government’s future ambitions for selling cleaned up nuclear sites to commercial property developers and energy utility companies. After examining the financial effects of radioactive contamination on property prices, and the attitude of major banks and lenders funding investment, chapter two discusses the potential ranges of valuations of sites for new nuclear reactor build projects, and the differing sales and bidding strategies that might realistically be adopted by the government and competing energy utility companies.
  • Chapter 3, Pricing Waste: The Economics of Nuclear Repositories, examines the search for a final dump site for Britain’s historic nuclear waste legacy and the likely cost implications for taxpayers. After several failed attempts at finding a disposal location the government is now offering to negotiate financial incentives with local communities to accept the waste. Chapter 3 discusses possible bidding strategies that could be adopted by communities competing to host a repository, how much money they should ask for in compensation and why. Chapter 3 also looks at the thorny question of how much cash energy utility companies might be asked to pay for disposing of extra wastes from new nuclear power station build, which is likely to triple the total radioactivity in the community’s repository. (An extract from this part of Nukenomics was published in the April 2008 edition of Nuclear Engineering International.) The chapter looks at some alternative storage solutions if negotiations break down or if no host community actually comes forward.
  • Chapter 4, Selling Plutonium: The Market for MOX, examines Britain’s role in the supply of MOX nuclear fuel manufactured from foreign plutonium stored at Sellafield. The chapter looks at the financing of the Sellafield MOX Plant (SMP), intended by the government to be a profitable commercial venture, and forecasts that taxpayers stand to lose several billion pounds. Chapter 4 goes on to examine the government’s options for dealing with Britain’s own much larger stockpile of plutonium, regarded by the nuclear industry as a valuable energy resource. Despite a MOX market crash in 2006 the chapter discusses the re-emergence of the MOX business as a route for destroying stockpiles of surplus plutonium as part of a non-commercial disposition strategy.
  • Chapter 5, Beyond Carbon: Nuclear Reactor Economics, discusses nuclear power’s dramatic return to respectability as a low-carbon energy source to help combat climate change. The chapter looks at the economic justification for building a new generation of nuclear power stations, and how the fortunes of nuclear energy are crucially geared toward the carbon market developing in Europe. The chapter discusses the critical factors affecting nuclear energy investment and how nuclear power plants might make a decent profit for investors if carbon prices remain high over the long term.

About the author

Ian Jackson joined the British nuclear industry in 1986 working initially at the Atomic Energy Research Establishment then later as a nuclear regulator. He is the author of Siting New Nuclear Power Stations: Availability and Options for Government published alongside the 2007 Energy White Paper. He received the Environment Agency’s plain language award in 1999 for his report on the regulation of atomic weapons sites and has advised many public and private sector organisations on nuclear issues.

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Nukenomics by Ian Jackson (ISBN: 9781903077559) is available at £20. Copies can be ordered online (please note that this link takes you to NEI’s secure subscription ordering webpage – please select subscribe. After selecting your region, you should be able to purchase books). Copies can also be ordered from NEI by:
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