A leaked report by France's nuclear regulator IRSN estimates that a single major accident at French nuclear power plant financially ruin France and affect 90 million people in Europe. A freedom of information request reveals that here in the UK, the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has not carried out any such study and haven't even assessed the French one. It seems DECC are pushing for more reactors while deaf to warnings of the risks, even when they come from the very country they want to supply them.
Earlier this year it was revealed that France's nuclear regulator (the Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety, IRSN) had carried out a study on the potential costs of an accident at a nuclear power plant, which it kept secret for several years. Taking as an example the EDF plant at Dampierre, the study estimated that the cost of a major accident could amount to €5.8 trillion which would mean financial ruin for France. (To put this in perspective, it's estimated that Germany's transition to renewable energy will cost about €1 trillion spread over the next 25 years – six times less than a single nuclear accident).
So what would an accident in the UK cost? In May this year (2013) I made a Freedom of Information request to ask DECC if it had carried out a similar study for the UK, or at least assessed the French study. DECC have since replied 'no' to both questions.
Given that the UK has several existing reactors and is in negotiations with France's EDF to build more, this is an astonishing admission. It seems that when it comes to understanding nuclear's dangers, DECC would simply prefer not to know.
It furthermore turns out that over the several years negotiations leading up to the deal with France's EDF to build new reactors in the UK, neither EDF nor the IRSN chose to inform Britain's energy department DECC of the enormous costs of an accident identified in the IRSN study. An extreme case of Buyer Beware. See the second letter below from DECC following a further freedom of information request.
Copies of the correspondence with DECC are shown below. Further details of the IRSN report is given in the references at the foot of the page.
Request under the Freedom of Information Act
Earlier this year it was revealed that France's nuclear regulator (the Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety, IRSN) carried out a study on the potential costs of an accident at a nuclear power plant. It is referred to here:
France Predict Cost of Nuclear Disaster to be Over Three Times their GDP http://oilprice.com/Alternative-Energy/Nuclear-Power/France-Predict-Cost-of-Nuclear-Disaster-to-be-Over-Three-Times-their-GDP.html
and here in French: Le Journal de Dimanche: Le scénario noir du nucléaire. http://www.lejdd.fr/Economie/Actualite/Exclusif-JDD-le-scenario-noir-du-nucleaire-595593
Taking as an example the EDF plant at Dampierre, the study estimated that the cost of a major accident could amount to €5.8 trillion. During comments on the report, IRSN Director General Jacques Repussard also said that he believes that the ultimate cost of the Fukushima reactor disaster in Japan would be one trillion Euros.
Under the Freedom of Information Act, please could you advise me:
1) Whether the United Kingdom government has carried out a similar study for the UK.
2) If there is such a study for the UK:
What does it estimate as the cost of a major accident at a UK atomic power plant.
Has it been made public and where may it be obtained.
3) Has DECC assessed the IRSN study and if so what is its assessment.
This is what DECC wrote back:
This is what DECC wrote back in answer to my second freedom of information request:
 This article summarises the secret IRSN report leaked this year: France Predict Cost of Nuclear Disaster to be Over Three Times their GDP. "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. The costs incurred by farmers, employees, and companies, the environmental damage and healthcare expenses would amount to €4.4 trillion."
 The article that realed the secret IRSN report in the French paper Le Journal de Dimanche: Le scénario noir du nucléaire.
 The cost of Germany's transition to renewable energy referred to here in of all places World Nuclear News: Trillion Euro Cost of German Energy TransitionIn an in-depth interview with Frankfurter Allgemeine, Altmaier said that costs for the plans to reform and restructure the country's energy sector by the end of the 2030s could reach €1 trillion ($1.3 trillion).