Fuel Costs

Fuel purchase costs for nuclear plants are generally low in comparison with other energy producers (Table 2.3). These costs are an important differentiator to the competitiveness of nuclear vs. non-nuclear plant. Nevertheless, fuel purchase costs are still high and can significantly affect the economics of plant operation.

Table 2.3. Fuel costs


Cost (% of generation)



< 25

Relatively insensitive to uranium price volatility


~ 40-50

Sensitivity to coal price volatility


~ 75-80

Very sensitive to gas price volatility

Wilmer and Bertel (2000).

For a nuclear power plant, over half of the generating costs relate to the initial capital investment. Fuel accounts for less than 25% of the total generation cost and in recent years, fuel cycle costs have decreased significantly in all countries. Conversely for coal and gas, fuel costs are the most dominant, representing 40-80%, respectively, of the total generation cost. Regarding other costs, operating and maintenance (O & M) costs represent only a small part of the total generating costs of nuclear power plants. These O & M costs relate mainly to the technical performance of the plants, safety regulations and staff costs. Decommissioning costs’ issues are discussed later in Chapter 6.

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