Nuclear power in New Zealand : a question of economics? : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Economics at Massey University, Manawatu, New Zealand
The purpose of this research is to investigate whether there is sufficient economic
justification of the omission of nuclear energy from the policy sphere in New Zealand.
Technologically speaking nuclear is a reliable and clean source of electricity, but
concerns surround its safety and cost competitiveness.
In order to reach a relevant conclusion, a range of literature, scientific reports, cost
data, and other various institutional publications have been evaluated. Consideration is
also made of the political treatment of nuclear technology, with the understanding that
nuclear power needs to gain acceptance in the eyes of the public and policymakers, not
just prove economically competitive.
The findings of the research are two-fold. First, nuclear power is potentially
economically competitive – when carbon cost estimations are taken into account. In the
absence of any adjustments for emissions, the outcome is less clear. Nevertheless, this
is promising in the case of New Zealand, which has a carbon trading scheme and a
strong focus on emissions costs in its energy outlook. Secondly, the safety risks of a
modern nuclear energy are not nearly as drastic as public perception may hold. The oftquoted
examples of Chernobyl and Three Mile Island are – in the case of a modern
reactor design – irrelevant and encouraging, respectively. However, the findings also
point to on-going challenges facing nuclear energy, particularly that of long-term waste
The author asserts that, on balance, there is no justification for simply dismissing
nuclear as an energy option. Further research and an integration of the technology into
the evaluation of possible future electric generation mixes would be desirable, in order
to reach a definitive conclusion about the possible role of nuclear generation in the NZ