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Ja­pan to de­bate en­ergy strat­egy

TO O — Ja­pan will be­gin dis­cus­sions next year to de­cide on a so-called en­ergy mix for the next few decades, in­clud­ing the per­cent­age of elec­tric­ity to be gen­er­ated by nu­clear power fol­low­ing the 2011 Fukushima nu­clear cri­sis, the in­dus­try min­is­ter said yes­ter­day. The Min­istry of Econ­omy, Trade and In­dus­try will set up a com­mit­tee on de­cid­ing the en­ergy mix, or the pro­por­tion of elec­tric­ity gen­er­ated by var­i­ous sources, and a work­ing group to as­sess elec­tric­ity gen­er­a­tion costs of each source, aim­ing to reach a con­clu­sion around next sum­mer. In a na­tional en­ergy pol­icy adopted in April, the gov­ern­ment of Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe de­scribed atomic power as an “im­por­tant base-load power source”, although the majority of peo­ple in Ja­pan were op­posed to nu­clear power fol­low­ing the Fukushima cri­sis. The gov­ern­ment also pledged to in­tro­duce re­new­able en­ergy as far as pos­si­ble. In­dus­try min­is­ter Yoichi Miyazawa told a press con­fer­ence that the gov­ern­ment will launch dis­cus­sions “as soon as the new year comes” based on the ba­sic en­ergy pol­icy, “as we are mov­ing to­ward restart­ing idled nu­clear re­ac­tors and in­ter­na­tional de­bate on global warm­ing is ex­pected to ac­cel­er­ate” to­ward a UN cli­mate con­fer­ence at the end of 2015. Ja­pan, one of the big­gest green­house gas emit­ters, has not set a post-2020 emis­sion tar­get due to un­cer­tainty over how many of its 48 com­mer­cial re­ac­tors – all of which were grad­u­ally taken off­line after the Fukushima melt­downs – will go back on­line amid safety con­cerns. In 2015, how­ever, at least four re­ac­tors may go back on­line, with the pro- nu­clear gov­ern­ment striv­ing to restart idled units that have cleared the reg­u­la­tor’s safety screen­ing based on new reg­u­la­tions im­posed after the Fukushima cri­sis trig­gered by the mas­sive earth­quake and tsunami. In fis­cal 2010, 28.6 per cent of Ja­pan’s to­tal elec­tric­ity sup­ply was gen­er­ated by nu­clear power, 61.7 per cent by ther­mal power and 8.5 per cent by mega hy­dro power. Miyazawa said ear­lier the pro­por­tion of elec­tric­ity to be gen­er­ated by nu­clear power will be less than the level be­fore the nu­clear ac­ci­dent. — ODO

Safety will be cen­tral in de­bate on nu­clear power

SAFETY con­cerns would be the first is­sue to be de­bated when talk­ing about the pos­si­bil­ity of us­ing nu­clear power in Ire­land, En­ergy Min­is­ter Alex White has said. The use of nu­clear power is banned by law and any change in that would re­quire Dail and Seanad ap­proval, he stressed – but he re­it­er­ated com­ments made in an in­ter­view with the Ir­ish In­de­pen­dent in which he said that any dis­cus­sion on the fu­ture of Ire­land’s en­ergy sup­ply must in­clude con­sid­er­a­tion of the nu­clear op­tion. He said all pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ments had a poor record of plan­ning for fu­ture en­ergy sup­ply and the main is­sue was the coun­try’s con­tin­ued de­pen­dence on im­ported fos­sil fu­els such as oil and coal. The min­is­ter ad­mit­ted that there were safety con­cerns and said that he was not ad­vo­cat­ing the im­mi­nent use of nu­clear en­ergy. He said that, at all events, such a rad­i­cal pol­icy change would re­quire a change to the law. Mr White promised a new en­ergy pol­icy doc­u­ment by the sum­mer af­ter a pro­longed pe­riod of con­sul­ta­tion with all in­ter­ested par­ties. He urged a de­tailed and rea­soned de­bate on the is­sue ahead of pol­icy de­ci­sions be­ing taken. “I’m com­pre­hen­sive sim­ply say­ing no de­bate on fu­ture en­ergy needs can ex­clude any source of en­ergy,” he told RTE ra­dio. The Depart­ment of Com­mu­ni­ca­tions, En­ergy and Nat­u­ral Re­sources is work­ing on the long-term en­ergy strat­egy. This will set out the role for con­ven­tional power gen­er­a­tion from oil and gas; re­new­ables in­clud­ing wind and en­ergy; along with nu­clear and other en­ergy sources. The min­is­ter also said that politi­cians and ‘of­fi­cial’ Ire­land had not per­formed well in the midst of a “cri­sis” about our fu­ture en­ergy needs. He ad­mit­ted that many peo­ple liv­ing in the shadow of py­lons and wind tur­bines felt they were “vic­tims of a pol­icy” which was not of their mak­ing, and there was a need to work more closely with lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties. The Green Party’s en­ergy spokesman, Cllr Os­sian Smyth, said the pro­posal was un­re­al­is­tic on many grounds, es­pe­cially the ru­inous cost of con­struc­tion and op­er­a­tion. The min­is­ter’s com­ments about the po­ten­tial use of nu­clear power fol­lows a govern­ment dis­cus­sion doc­u­ment on en­ergy last sum­mer which in­cluded a sug­ges­tion that it could be “tech­ni­cally pos­si­ble” to con­struct a small nu­clear re­ac­tor in Ire­land. It also sug­gested that such an in­stal­la­tion could re­place the coal-fired power sta­tion at Money­point, Co Clare, which is due to close in 2025.

‘Do not re­sume Ja­panese fish im­ports’

En­vi­ron­men­tal­ists and con­sumer groups crit­i­cized the gov­ern­ment on Wed­nes­day for con­sid­er­ing lifting the ban on Ja­panese fish im­ports which has been in place since Septem­ber 2013 in the wake of the Fukushima nu­clear dis­as­ter in 2011. The ban was en­acted be­cause the sea wa­ter near the power plant was found to be highly con­tam­i­nated. The ban is ap­pli­ca­ble to all types of fish­ery prod­ucts from Fukushima and eight pre­fec­tures nearby. The groups gath­ered in cen­tral Seoul to urge the gov­ern­ment to re-con­sider its plan to re­sume Ja­panese fish im­ports. “It is like giv­ing Ja­pan a gift at the cost of the pub­lic health. We con­demn the min­istry’s ap­proach,” the groups said in a state­ment. The par­tic­i­pat­ing groups in­cluded the Korea Fed­er­a­tion for En­vi­ron­men­tal Move­ments, Hansalim, Child Save and the Cen­ter for Oc­cu­pa­tional and En­vi­ron­men­tal Health. Fur­ther­more, the groups de­manded the gov­ern­ment ban all Ja­panese fish­ery prod­ucts. The crit­i­cism came after a for­eign min­istry of­fi­cial in­di­cated last week that the ban could be lifted soon. “A group of ex­perts are do­ing re­search. This year cel­e­brates the 50th an­niver­sary after Korea and Ja­pan re­cov­ered its diplo­matic ties. We’re work­ing to re­move an ob­sta­cle in Korea-Ja­pan re­la­tions as soon as pos­si­ble,” a min­istry of­fi­cial said. A lot of the par­tic­i­pants at the demon­stra­tion were moth­ers and chil­dren. “I don’t want my kids to be ex­posed to ra­dioac­tive fish in school,” said Koh Hye-jin, 34, a mother of two chil­dren. “Although num­bers show it’s be­low the dan­ger­ous level, it’s hard to be­lieve. No mat­ter how small, it can be a prob­lem when the num­ber ac­cu­mu­lates.” Chil­dren were also among the demon­stra­tors. The im­port ban in 2013 was im­posed when ex­perts found the sea wa­ter near the Fukushima nu­clear re­ac­tors was highly con­tam­i­nated. Since then, the gov­ern­ment runs a sam­ple test on Ja­panese fish­eries prod­ucts on a daily ba­sis. Although the re­sults have not shown any sig­nif­i­cant threat, the pub­lic con­tin­ues to show their con­cern about the safety of Ja­panese fish im­ports.

Al­berta boom hits pause but­ton

Are we there yet? Far from it. After plung­ing by $49 US a bar­rel since June, this year’s dra­matic melt­down in oil prices isn’t over. Watch for the price of West Texas In­ter­me­di­ate (WTI), the bench­mark grade of U.S. light crude, to sink to $50 US a bar­rel or lower be­fore a sus­tained turn­around be­gins in the last half of 2015. With the Or­ga­ni­za­tion of Pe­tro­leum Ex­port­ing Coun­tries (OPEC) re­fus­ing to cut pro­duc­tion and the United Arab Emi­rates en­ergy min­is­ter warn­ing that the car­tel won’t blink even if oil slides to $40, the stage is set for some nasty fire­works ahead. “We will not have a real pic­ture about oil prices un­til the end of the first half of 2015,” OPEC sec­re­tary gen­eral Ab­dalla El-Badri told Bloomberg at a week­end con­fer­ence in Dubai. Once prices set­tle after that, he added, OPEC will de­cide what “re­quired mea­sures” to take. His clear mes­sage? OPEC is will­ing to en­dure fur­ther short-term pain for longer term gains. Its goal is to cap the ex­plo­sive growth of U.S. shale oil pro­duc­tion by driv­ing down prices. “Our ex­pec­ta­tion in OPEC is that after 2020, the oil in­dus­try in the U.S. will de­cline,” and it will re­sume its tra­di­tional re­liance on crude im­ports from the Mid­dle East, El-Badri said. No won­der Al­berta Premier Jim Pren­tice sees a big hole — amount­ing to $6 bil­lion Cdn or more — in the prov­ince’s pro­jected rev­enues for 2015, as the cur­rent oil “price trough” deep­ens. Can any­one spell bud­get cuts? Of course, no one in­clud­ing OPEC knows pre­cisely where the bot­tom will be. The es­ti­mates for WTI range from $43 (Mor­gan Stan­ley) to about $50 (Bank of Amer­ica, Eura­sia Group). The ex­act tim­ing is also a mat­ter of guess­work. In­vest­ment bank Gold­man Sachs is bet­ting on a bot­tom by the sec­ond quar­ter of 2015. Eura­sia, a ma­jor global en­ergy con­sult­ing firm, ex­pects the lows to hit in the first quar­ter, as­sum­ing OPEC changes its tune and U.S. shale pro­duc­tion starts to slow. What­ever hap­pens, the price is sure to be well south of Fri­day’s close of $57.81, which marked the low­est level in five years. Although drilling ac­tiv­ity is al­ready drop­ping off a cliff, and en­ergy pro­duc­ers like Cono­coPhillips and Cen­ovus are chop­ping their bud­gets, it will take months for pro­duc­tion lev­els to ad­just sig­nif­i­cantly. Mean­while, roughly 1.5 mil­lion bar­rels of sur­plus pro­duc­tion is slosh­ing around a global oil mar­ket that con­sumes some 93 mil­lion bar­rels of crude per day, and no one is will­ing to give up a piece of it. OPEC’s mem­bers, who are pro­duc­ing about 30.5 mil­lion bar­rels of crude a day now and ex­pect de­mand for their out­put to fall be­low 29 mil­lion bar­rels a day in 2015, hope to de­fend their mar­ket share at the ex­pense of oth­ers. Put sim­ply, this is a colos­sal fight over who gets what share of the global en­ergy pie, and so far, no one is back­ing down, even as share prices and cur­ren­cies tank. Here in Canada, the rout in en­ergy stocks has been a key fac­tor be­hind the de­cline in the loonie and the sharp pull­back on the Toronto Stock Ex­change, where the bench­mark in­dex now sits at 13,731.05. That’s a full 12.5 per cent be­low its 2014 high, and just a hair above where it started the year. Even Canada’s usu­ally rock-solid bank stocks are tak­ing a hit, as wor­ries about credit losses rise. Un­less oil prices re­bound soon, some high-cost small or mid-tier pro­duc­ers with heavy debt loads won’t sur­vive. While some of Al­berta’s oil­sands play­ers have high- cost op­er­a­tions, oth­ers are prof­itable even at $40 oil. Most are big enough to sur­vive two or three weak quarters, in any case. And they aren’t the only ones feel­ing the heat. Some U.S. shale oil plays also sit at the high end of the cost curve, says Sco­tia­bank com­mod­ity guru Pa­tri­cia Mohr. That in­cludes pro­duc­ers in North Dakota’s pro­lific Bakken play and the Per­mian Basin of West Texas. In­ter­na­tion­ally, the ground is shift­ing rapidly too. Oil­rich Venezuela is in cri­sis, and may be forced to de­fault on its debt. Rus­sia’s en­ergy-fu­elled econ­omy, al­ready groan­ing un­der the weight of For those who don’t re­mem­ber, oil sold for just $33 a bar­rel in early 2009, and in 1998, prices got down to just $8 a bar­rel in­ter­na­tional sanc­tions due to Vladimir Putin’s ad­ven­tures in east­ern Ukraine, has been pushed into re­ces­sion, and all but two of OPEC’s mem­ber states (Kuwait and Qatar) will face fat bud­get deficits at cur­rent low oil prices. If not for its mas­sive cash re­serves, even OPEC king­pin Saudi Ara­bia would likely have caved into pres­sure by now. But it hasn’t. In­stead, it and other OPEC play­ers have con­tin­ued to dis­count prices in Asia, the only global growth mar­ket that’s left for crude oil. The win­ners? Big oil im­porters like China and In­dia. The bot­tom line? The great Al­berta oil boom of re­cent years has hit the pause but­ton, and the pause is likely to last a while. Although most fore­cast­ers ex­pect crude prices to re­bound to per­haps $75 US or more in the sec­ond half of 2015, vir­tu­ally no one sees a re­turn to $100 oil. In­stead, crude could trade in the $60 to $80 range for lit­er­ally years. Call it the “new noil­mal.” That said, there’s no rea­son to panic. Most Al­ber­tans have been through this be­fore, and will adapt to the lat­est car­nage. The sharp drop in the loonie and lower dis­counts on Western Canada Se­lect (WCS), Al­berta’s bench­mark grade — which now sells for about $47 Cdn a bar­rel — have pro­vided some respite. Mean­while, other sec­tors of the provin­cial econ­omy, from re­tail­ing to forestry to fi­nan­cial ser­vices and agri­cul­ture, are do­ing well, and that’s likely to con­tinue. Ac­cord­ing to RBC Eco­nomics, the provin­cial econ­omy will grow by 2.7 per cent next year. Not great by re­cent Al­berta stan­dards, per­haps, but on par with the rest of the coun­try. Be­sides, Al­berta is a re­silient prov­ince that has sur­vived far worse. For those who don’t re­mem­ber, oil sold for just $33 a bar­rel in early 2009, and in 1998, prices got down to just $8 a bar­rel. That’s right. Eight bucks. So it’s not as if the oil­patch hasn’t en­dured tough times be­fore. It has, and it will sur­vive this rough patch too. That’s one fore­cast you can bank on. glam­phier@ed­mon­ton­jour­nal.com

False prom­ise of nu­clear power

New de­vel­op­ments high­light the grow­ing tra­vails of the global nu­clear- power in­dus­try. France — the “poster child” of atomic power — plans to cut its nu­clear- gen­er­at­ing ca­pac­ity by a third by 2025 and fo­cus in­stead on re­new­able sources, like its neigh­bours, Ger­many and Spain. As nu­clear power be­comes in­creas­ingly un­eco­nom­i­cal at home be­cause of sky­rock­et­ing costs, the U. S. and France are ag­gres­sively push­ing ex­ports, not just to In­dia and China, but also to “nu­clear new­com­ers,” such as the cash- laden oil sheikhdoms. Still, the bulk of the re­ac­tors un­der con­struc­tion or planned world­wide are lo­cated in just four coun­tries — China, Rus­sia, South Korea and In­dia. Six decades after Lewis Strauss, chair­man of the U. S. Atomic En­ergy Com­mis­sion, claimed that nu­clear en­ergy would be­come “too cheap to me­ter,” nu­clear power con­fronts an in­creas­ingly un­cer­tain fu­ture, largely be­cause of un­favourable eco­nomics. The In­ter­na­tional En­ergy Agency’s World En­ergy Out­look 2014, re­leased last week, states: “Uncer­tain­ties con­tinue to cloud the fu­ture for nu­clear — gov­ern­ment pol­icy, pub­lic con­fi­dence, fi­nanc­ing in lib­er­al­ized mar­kets, com­pet­i­tive­ness ver­sus other sources of gen­er­a­tion, and the loom­ing re­tire­ment of a large fleet of older plants.” Heav­ily sub­sidy re­liant Nu­clear power has the en­ergy sec­tor’s high­est cap­i­tal and wa­ter in­ten­sity and long­est plant- con­struc­tion time frame, mak­ing it hardly at­trac­tive for pri­vate in­vestors. Plant con­struc­tion time frame, with li­cens­ing ap­proval, still av­er­ages almost a decade, as un­der­scored by the new re­ac­tors com­mis­sioned in the past decade. The key fact about nu­clear power is that it is the world’s most sub­sidy­fat­tened en­ergy in­dus­try, even as it gen­er­ates the most dan­ger­ous wastes whose safe dis­posal sad­dles fu­ture gen­er­a­tions. Com­mer­cial re­ac­tors have been in op­er­a­tion for more than half- a- cen­tury, yet the in­dus­try still can­not stand on its own feet with­out ma­jor state support. In­stead of the cost of nu­clear power de­clin­ing with the tech­nol­ogy’s mat­u­ra­tion — as is the case with other sources of en­ergy — the costs have es­ca­lated mul­ti­ple times. In this light, nu­clear power has in­ex­orably been on a down­ward tra­jec­tory. The nu­clear share of the world’s to­tal elec­tric­ity pro­duc­tion reached its peak of 17 per cent in the late 1980s. Since then, it has been fall­ing, and is cur­rently es­ti­mated at about 13 per cent, even as new ura­nium dis­cov­er­ies have swelled global re­serves. With proven re­serves hav­ing grown by 12.5 per cent since just 2008, there is enough ura­nium to meet cur­rent de­mand for more than 100 years. Yet, the world­wide ag­gre­gate in­stalled ca­pac­ity of just three re­new­ables — wind power, so­lar power and biomass — has sur­passed in­stalled nu­clear- gen­er­at­ing ca­pac­ity. In In­dia and China, wind power out­put alone ex­ceeds nu­clear- gen­er­ated elec­tric­ity. Fukushima’s im­pact Be­fore the 2011 Fukushima dis­as­ter, the global nu­clear power in­dus­try — a pow­er­ful car­tel of less than a dozen ma­jor state- owned or state- guided firms — had been trumpeting a global “nu­clear re­nais­sance.” This spiel was largely an­chored in hope. How­ever, the triple melt­down at Fukushima has not only re­opened old safety con­cerns but also set in mo- tion the re­nais­sance of nu­clear power in re­verse. The dual im­per­a­tive for costly up­grades post- Fukushima and for mak­ing the in­dus­try com­pet­i­tive, in­clud­ing by cut­ting back on the mu­nif­i­cent gov­ern­ment sub­si­dies, un­der­scores nu­clear power’s dim­ming fu­ture. It is against this back­ground that In­dia’s itch to im­port high- priced re­ac­tors must be ex­am­ined. To be sure, In­dia should ramp up elec­tric­ity pro­duc­tion from all en­ergy sources. There is def­i­nitely a place for safe nu­clear power in In­dia’s en­ergy mix. In­deed, the coun­try’s do­mes­tic nu­clear- power in­dus­try has done a fairly good job both in de­liv­er­ing elec­tric­ity at a price that is the envy of western firms and, as the new­est in­dige­nous re­ac­tors show, in beat­ing the mean global plant con­struc­tion time frame. In­dia should ac­tu­ally be en­cour­ag­ing its in­dus­try to ex­port its tested and re­li­able mid- size re­ac­tor model, which is bet­ter suited for the de­vel­op­ing coun­tries, con­sid­er­ing their grid lim­i­ta­tions. In­stead, Prime Min­is­ter Man­mo­han Singh’s gov­ern­ment, after mak­ing In­dia the world’s largest im­porter of con­ven­tional arms since 2006, set out to make the coun­try the world’s sin­gle largest im­porter of nu­clear power re­ac­tors — a dou­ble whammy for In­dian tax­pay­ers, al­ready heav­ily bur­dened by the fact that In­dia is the only ma­jor econ­omy in Asia that is im­port- de­pen­dent rather than ex­port driven. Cri­tiquing In­dia’s pro­gramme To com­pound mat­ters, the Singh gov­ern­ment opted for ma­jor re­ac­tor im­ports with­out a com­pet­i­tive bid­ding process. It re­served a nu­clear park each for four for­eign firms ( Areva of France, West­ing­house and GE of the U. S., and Atomstroyexport of Rus­sia) to build mul­ti­ple re­ac­tors at a sin­gle site. It then set out to ac­quire land from farm­ers and other res­i­dents, em­ploy­ing co­er­cion in some cases. Hav­ing un­der­cut its lever­age by ded­i­cat­ing a park to each for­eign ven­dor, it en­tered into price ne­go­ti­a­tions. Be­cause the im­ported re­ac­tors are to be op­er­ated by the In­dian state, the for­eign ven­dors have been freed from pro­duc­ing elec­tric­ity at mar­ketable rates. In other words, In­dian tax­pay­ers are to sub­sidise the high- priced elec­tric­ity gen­er­ated. West­ing­house, GE and Areva also wish to shift the pri­mary li­a­bil­ity for any ac­ci­dent to the In­dian tax­payer so that they have no down­side risk but only prof­its to reap. If a Fukushima- type catas­tro­phe were to strike In­dia, it would se­ri­ously dam­age the In­dian econ­omy. A re­cent Osaka City Univer­sity study has put Ja­pan’s Fukushima- dis­as­ter bill at a whop­ping $ 105 bil­lion. To Dr. Singh’s dis­com­fi­ture, three fac­tors put a break on his re­ac­tor- im­port plans — the ex­or­bi­tant price of French- and U. S.- ori­gin re­ac­tors, the ac­ci­dent- li­a­bil­ity is­sue, and grass- roots op­po­si­tion to the planned mul­ti­re­ac­tor com­plexes. After Fukushima, the grass- roots at­ti­tude in In­dia is that nu­clear power is okay as long as the plant is lo­cated in some­one else’s back­yard, not one’s own. This at­ti­tude took a pe­cu­liar form at Ku­danku­lam, in Tamil Nadu, where a protest move­ment sud­denly flared just when the Rus­sian- ori­gin, twin- unit nu­clear power plant was vir­tu­ally com­plete. In­dia’s new nu­clear plants, like in most other coun­tries, are lo­cated in coastal re­gions so that th­ese wa­ter- guz­zling fa­cil­i­ties can largely draw on sea­wa­ter for their op­er­a­tions and not bring fresh­wa­ter re­sources un­der strain. But coastal ar­eas are of­ten not only heav­ily pop­u­lated but also con­sti­tute prime real es­tate. The risks that sea­side re­ac­tors face from global warm­ing- in­duced nat­u­ral dis­as­ters be­came ev­i­dent more than six years be­fore Fukushima, when the 2004 In­dian Ocean tsunami in­un­dated parts of the Madras Atomic Power Sta­tion. But the re­ac­tor core could be kept in a safe shut­down mode be­cause the elec­tri­cal sys­tems had been in­stalled on higher ground than the plant level. One- sided Dr. Singh in­vested so such po­lit­i­cal cap­i­tal in the Indo- U. S. civil nu­clear agree­ment that much of his first term was spent in ne­go­ti­at­ing and con­sum­mat­ing the deal. He never ex­plained why he over­ruled the nu­clear es­tab­lish­ment and shut down the CIRUS re­search re­ac­tor — the source of much of In­dia’s cu­mu­la­tive his­toric pro­duc­tion of weapon­s­grade plu­to­nium since the 1960s. In fact, CIRUS had been re­fur­bished at a cost of mil­lions of dol­lars and re­opened for barely two years when Dr. Singh suc­cumbed to U. S. pres­sure and agreed to close it down. Nev­er­the­less, the nu­clear ac­cord has turned out to be a dud deal for In­dia on en­ergy but a roar­ing suc­cess for the U. S. in open­ing the door to ma­jor weapon sales — a de­vel­op­ment that has qui­etly made Amer­ica the largest arms sup­plier to In­dia. For the U. S., the deal from the be­gin­ning was more geostrate­gic in na­ture ( de­signed to co- opt In­dia as a quasially) than cen­tred on just en­ergy. Even if no dif­fer­ences had arisen over the ac­ci­dent- li­a­bil­ity is­sue, the deal would still not have de­liv­ered a sin­gle op­er­a­tional nu­clear power plant for a more than a decade for two rea­sons — the in­flated price of west­er­no­ri­gin com­mer­cial re­ac­tors and grass- roots op­po­si­tion. Areva, West­ing­house and GE signed Mem­o­ran­dums of Un­der­stand­ing with the state- run Nu­clear Power Cor­po­ra­tion of In­dia Limited ( NPCIL) in 2009, but con­struc­tion has yet to be­gin at any site. In­dia has of­fered Areva, with which ne­go­ti­a­tions are at an ad­vanced stage, a power price of Rs. 6.50 per kilo­watt hour — twice the av­er­age elec­tric­ity price from in­dige­nous re­ac­tors. But the state- owned French firm is still hold­ing out for a higher price. If Ku­danku­lam is a clue, work at the mas­sive nu­clear com­plexes at Jaita­pur in Ma­ha­rash­tra ( ear­marked for Areva), Mithi Virdi in Gu­jarat ( West­ing­house) and Kov­vada in Andhra Pradesh ( GE) is likely to run into grass- roots re­sis­tance. In­deed, if In­dia wishes to boost nu­clear- gen­er­at­ing ca­pac­ity with­out pay­ing through its nose, the bet­ter choice — given its new ac­cess to the world ura­nium mar­ket — would be an ac­cel­er­ated in­dige­nous pro­gramme. Glob­ally, nu­clear power is set to face in­creas­ing chal­lenges due to its in­abil­ity to com­pete with other en­ergy sources in pric­ing. Another fac­tor is how to man­age the ris­ing vol­umes of spent nu­clear fuel in the ab­sence of per­ma­nent dis­posal fa­cil­i­ties. More fun­da­men­tally, with­out a break­through in fu­sion en­ergy or greater com­mer­cial ad­vances in the area that the U. S. has strived to block — breeder ( and tho­rium) re­ac­tors — nu­clear power is in no po­si­tion to lead the world out of the fos­sil fuel age. ( Brahma Chellaney is a geostrate­gist and au­thor.)

Nu­clear waste dis­posal

The na­tion’s first nu­clear waste repos­i­tory will soon start op­er­a­tions in Gyeongju, the an­cient cap­i­tal of the Silla King­dom about 370 km south­east of Seoul, of­fi­cials said Mon­day. It took seven years and 1.56 tril­lion won($1.53bil­lion)to­com­pleteth­e­fa­cil­ity which will store low- to medium-level nu­clear waste, such as cool­ing wa­ter, parts and com­po­nents, and work­ing clothes and gloves, ac­cord­ing to the Kore­aRa­dioac­tiveWasteA­gency. Ac­tu­ally, how­ever, the com­ple­tion pe­riod should be ex­tended to 31 years as it was in 1983, five years af­ter Korea’s first nu­clear power plant went into oper­a­tion, when the govern­ment be­gan to dis­cuss the need for build­ing a stor­age fa­cil­ity. At least three Cab­i­net min­is­ters had to leave their posts em­broiled in so­cial con­tro­versy over se­lect­ing the site. This il­lus­trates how long and tu­mul­tuous the process is in reach­ing a so­cial con­sen­sus on the dis­posal of ra­dioac­tive ma­te­ri­als. And that, in turn, brings one to the far more tech­no­log­i­cally dif­fi­cult and so­cially con­tro­ver­sial is­sue of build­ing a per­ma­nent repos­i­tory for high-level nu­clear waste, namely spent nu­clear fuel. So much so that no coun­try has yet built a per­ma­nent burial site for used fuel. For Korea, a far more ur­gent is­sue is the con­struc­tion of an “intermediate” fa­cil­ity which can store spent nu­clear rods for next three to four decades. Cur­rently, oper­a­tors store spent nu­clear rods at pools within each nu­clear power com­plex be­fore mov­ing them to an intermediate fa­cil­ity. Be­cause of the lack of such fa­cil­i­ties, how­ever, most of the waste stays in the pools. Even the pools will be­gin to reach sat­u­ra­tion in 2016 and will no longer be able to re­ceive any more fuel rods by 2024. That means Korea should fin­ish mak­ing all re­lated de­ci­sions within this year, as it will take 10 years to com­plete the intermediate fa­cil­ity, The Park Geun-hye ad­min­is­tra­tion was right in this re­gard to launch a govern­ment-civil­ian com­mit­tee last year to put ma­jor re­lated topics — the size and lo­ca­tion of the pro­posed fa­cil­ity as well as re­quired tech­nol­ogy — up for pub­lic dis­cus­sion. It was a de­sir­able break from the pre­vi­ous de­ci­sion-mak­ing process, in which the govern­ment uni­lat­er­ally made key de­ci­sions, trig­ger­ing pop­u­lar protests; and then ei­ther re­sorted to trick­ery to per­suade res­i­dents in­volved or started over. The prob­lem is the com­mit­tee seems to have not been op­er­at­ing very smoothly. First, en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists are still com­plain­ing the panel has too many mem­bers from the nu­clear in­dus­try, and too few mem­bers rep­re­sent­ing the in­ter­ests of the gen­eral pub­lic. Sec­ond, it is turned into a per­func­tory de­vice, which forces the pri­vate sec­tor to ac­cept the govern­ment’s de­ci­sions. Govern­ment of­fi­cials should learn from the at­ti­tudes of their Swedish coun­ter­parts who have held hun­dreds, even thou­sands, of meet­ings with res­i­dents for decades un­til they reached am­i­ca­ble ac­cords. What these of­fi­cials must do to the best of their abil­ity is to bury spent fuel — not dif­fer­ent opin­ions.

Nu­clear waste to be shipped down coast

Plans to ship car­goes of ra­dioac­tive nu­clear waste from the Doun­reay plant around the north coast­line from Caith­ness to Cum­bria have sparked safety con­cerns. Crit­ics warned against the risks of nav­i­gat­ing rough seas around Cape Wrath and the Minch, but Doun­reay chiefs have de­fended the plan. In­de­pen­dent High­land MSP John Fin­nie said he un­der­stood the con­cerns of the com­mu­nity, par­tic­u­larly given the loss of the Coast­guard’s Stornoway-based emer­gency tug, which could help stricken ves­sels. Car­goes of ra­dioac­tive nu­clear waste will be shipped around the north coast­line from Caith­ness to Cum­bria un­der ne w pl a ns f r om bosses at the Doun­reay plant. The move is part of ef­forts to find an al­ter­na­tive to the con­tro­ver­sial prac­tice of send­ing spent fu­els by rail for re­pro­cess­ing at Sel­lafield. Crit­ics warn against the risks of nav­i­gati ng r ough s eas around Cape Wrath and the Minch. A prom­i­nent High­land cam­paigner said pub­lic con­cerns were not be­ing taken se­ri­ously. En­vi­ron­men­tal group Friends of the Earth said stick­ing with rail was a bet­ter op­tion than nav­i­gat­ing the stormy wa­ters off the north and west coast of Scot­land. High­land MSP Jo h n Fin­nie said he had par­tic- “The weather can be very chal­leng­ing in the Minch” ular con­cerns, given the loss of the Coast­guard’s Stornoway- based emer­gency tug, which went to the aid of the nu­clear-pow­ered sub­ma­rine HMS As­tute af­ter she grounded off Skye dur­ing sea tri­als four years ago. The Nu­clear De­com­mis­sion­ing Author­ity (NDA) is re­fus­ing to give de­tails of how and when the fu­els will be moved by ei­ther rail or sea on grounds of “na­tional se­cu­rity”. Doun­reay chiefs de­fended the plan, in­sist­ing a suc­cess­ful trial could give them two po­ten­tial routes for di s posi ng o f waste which can­not be dealt with at the site near Thurso. A spokes­woman for the base said mem­bers of the Doun­reay Stake­holder Group were in­formed about the tri­als. How­ever, John Boocock, co-chair of High­lands Against Nu­clear Trans­port, said the wider pub­lic should also have been given a say. “We are con­cerned that the pos­si­bil­ity of ship­ping nu­clear waste by sea has not been dis­cussed with our com­mu­ni­ties in the High­lands and Is­lands,” he said. In­de­pen­dent High­land MSP John Fin­nie said: “It is en­tirely un­der­stand­able that com­mu­ni­ties are con­cerned about this, re­gard­less of how low the risk of ac­ci­dents. “There are a lot of fac­tors need to be con­sid­ered here, such as the weather on the west coast, which can be very chal­leng­ing in the Minch, the the lack of tugs and so on.” Cam­paign­ers have been fight­ing for the re­in­state­ment of the Coast­guard tug. Cover has been re­duced to a sin­gle ves­sel based in Shet­land to work “around Scot­land's coast as re­quired”. A spokes­woman for Doun­reay said: “The Doun­reay Stake­holder Group was in­formed in March that tri­als of a sea route would be car­ried out. “If suc­cess­ful, this will give the op­tion of two routes for the de­liv­ery of Doun­reay’s ‘ex­otic’ fuel to Sel­lafield. “The trial will al­low im­ple­men­ta­tion of the NDA’s pre­ferred op­tions paper.” David Flear, chair­man of the Doun­reay Stake­hold­ers Group said: “When you think about it there’s only three ways of get­ting the fuel out – by land, sea or air and fly­ing is out of the ques­tion. “They came to the group with op­tions and gave us the chance to dis­cuss them prop­erly. “Some people think that the sea op­tion is the best and oth­ers think that by land is the best. My view is the fu­els need to be moved be­cause there is no fa­cil­ity to re­pro­cess them and they need to fully look at all the op­tions.” Dr Richard Dixon, di­rec­tor of Friends of the Earth Scot­land said: “The first pri­or­ity should al­ways to be to deal with as much waste as pos­si­ble on site, but there will still be a need to trans­port s o me o f the moun­tain of nu­clear waste we have cre­ated. “There are no per­fect an­swers but on bal­ance stick­ing with rail seems the bet­ter op­tion, es­pe­cially with cli­mate change mak­ing the wa­ters around the UK more stormy. Care­fully routed rail trans­port al­lows for eas­ier ac­cess if any­thing goes wrong. “The pro­posal to use ships sounds like a ploy to get this prob­lem out of people’s minds rather than the safest op­tion.” The NDA could not be reached for com­ment. The ex­otic fu­els are a sub-set of the site’s nu­clear ma­te­ri­als and com­prise a to­tal of about 26 tonnes of unir­ra­di­ated plu­to­nium bear­ing fu­els, unir­ra­di­ated high en­riched ura­nium (HEU) and ir­ra­di­ated fu­els (ox­ide and car­bide).

Think about un­think­able dis­as­ters: Fukushima study

A U.S. science ad­vi­sory re­port says Ja­pan’s Fukushima nu­clear ac­ci­dent of­fers a key les­son to the na­tion’s nu­clear in­dus­try: Fo­cus more on the highly un­likely but worst case sce­nar­ios. That means think­ing about earth­quakes, floods, tsunamis, so­lar storms, mul­ti­ple fail­ures and sit­u­a­tions that seem freak­ishly un­usual, ac­cord­ing to Thurs­day’s Na­tional Academy of Sciences re­port. Those kinds of things trig­gered the world’s three ma­jor nu­clear ac­ci­dents. “We need to do a soul search­ing when it comes to the as­sump­tions” of how to deal with worst case events, said Univer­sity of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia engi­neer­ing pro­fes­sor Na­jmedin Meshkati, the panel’s tech­ni­cal ad­viser. En­gi­neers should “think about some­thing that could hap­pen once ev­ery, per­haps 1,000 years” but that’s not re­ally part of their train­ing or na­ture, he said. “You have to to­tally change your mode of think­ing be­cause complacency and hubris is the worst en­emy to nu­clear safety,” Meshkati said in an in­ter­view. The re­port said the 2011 Ja­panese ac­ci­dent, caused by an earthquake and tsunami, should not have been a sur­prise. The re­port says another Ja­panese nu­clear power plant also hit by the tsunami was closer to the quake’s fault. But the Ona­gawa plant wasn’t dam­aged be­cause quakes and flood­ing were con­sid­ered when it was built. Ona­gawa had cru­cial backup elec­tric­ity avail­able for when the main power went down, as op­posed to Fukushima which had emer­gency gen­er­a­tors in a base­ment that flooded. Ona­gawa’s op­er­a­tors had “a dif­fer­ent mind­set” than the ex­ec­u­tives who ran Fukushima, Meshkati said. The other two nu­clear ac­ci­dents — at Penn­syl­va­nia’s Three Mile Is­land and Ukraine’s Ch­er­nobyl— were caused by mul­ti­ple sys­tem fail­ures. Lee Clarke, a Rut­gers Univer­sity risk ex­pert and au­thor of the book “Worst Cases,” crit­i­cized the academy’s re­port as too weak. He said the tone of the re­port made it seem like the ac­ci­dent was un­pre­dictable and caught rea­son­able peo­ple by sur­prise “and it shouldn’t have.” But the re­port it­self said the “the Fukushima ac­ci­dent was not a tech­ni­cal sur­prise.” David Lochbaum of the ac­tivist group Union of Con­cerned Sci­en­tists said the prob­lem is that fed­eral law fi­nan­cially pro­tects the U.S. nu­clear in­dus­try from ac­ci­dents gives util­i­ties lit­tle in­cen­tive to spend money on low-prob­a­bil­ity, high-con­se­quence prob­lems. But Nu­clear En­ergy In­sti­tute se­nior vice pres­i­dent An­thony Pi­etrangelo said the Amer­i­can nu­clear in­dus­try has al­ready taken sev­eral steps to shore up backup power and deal with nat­u­ral dis­as­ters. “We can­not let such an ac­ci­dent hap­pen here,” he said in a state­ment. Another is­sue the re­port raised was about how far ra­di­a­tion may go in a worst case ac­ci­dent. The U.S. Nu­clear Reg­u­la­tory Com­mis­sion or­ders plants to have emer­gency plans for a zone of 10 miles around a nu­clear plant. But the academy study said Fukushima showed that “may prove in­ad­e­quate” if a sim­i­lar ac­ci­dent hap­pened in the U.S. Peo­ple nearly 19 miles away in Ja­pan needed pro­tec­tion from ra­di­a­tion. But the com­mit­tee would not say what would be a good emer­gency zone.

Nu­clear plants chal­lenge builders

WAY­NES­BORO — The U.S. nu­clear in­dus­try has started build­ing its first new plants in decades us­ing pre­fab­ri­cated Le­go­like blocks meant to save time and money and re­vive the once promis­ing en­ergy source. So far, it’s not work­ing. Qual­ity and cost prob­lems have cropped up again, rais­ing ques­tions about whether nu­clear power will ever be able to com­pete with other elec­tric­ity sources. The first two re­ac­tors built af­ter a 16-year lull, South­ern Co.’s Vog­tle plant in Ge­or­gia and SCANA Corp.’s VC Summer plant in South Carolina, are be­ing as­sem­bled in large mod­ules. Large chunks of the mod­ules are built off­site, in an ef­fort to im­prove qual­ity and avoid the chronic cost over­runs that all but killed the nu­clear in­dus­try when the first wave of plants was be­ing built in the 1960s and 1970s. An­a­lysts say en­gi­neers cre­ated de­signs that were hard or im­pos­si­ble to make, ac­cord­ing to in­ter­views and reg­u­la­tory fil­ings re­viewed by the As- Joseph “Buzz” Miller, ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent of nu­clear devel­op­ment at South­ern Co. in Louisiana, de­scribes the pre­fab­ri­cated high-pres­sure ves­sel that will be used in a new nu­clear re­ac­tor at Plant Vog­tle in Ge­or­gia. so­ci­ated Press. The fac­tory in Louisiana that con­structed the pre­fab­ri­cated sec­tions strug­gled to meet strict qual­ity rules. Util­ity com­pa­nies got early warn­ings but proved un­able to avoid the prob­lems. Now the firms lead­ing the project are phas­ing out the Louisiana fac­tory for work on the big­gest mod­ules and con­tract­ing with new man­u­fac­tur­ers. Few power com­pa­nies are build­ing brand-new nu­clear plants right now be­cause gas-fired plants are so cheap by com­par­i­son. But if con­struc­tion costs can be con­trolled, the nu­clear in­dus­try might have a long-term chance. Fu­ture gas prices are al­ways un­cer­tain, and stricter U.S. pol­lu­tion rules could make nu­clear plants more at­trac­tive since they pro­duce no green­house gasses. The dif­fi­cul­ties pro­duc­ing mod­ules are one fac­tor that caused sched­ules to slide. The first of the two new re­ac­tors at each site in Ge­or­gia and South Carolina were sup­posed to be op­er­at­ing in 2016, but that timetable has now been pushed into 2017 or early 2018. At Plant Vog­tle, South­ern Co. ex­pects to spend $646 mil­lion more than the orig­i­nally bud­geted $6.1 bil­lion on its share of the project. Joseph “Buzz” Miller, a South­ern Co. ex­ec­u­tive tasked with build­ing the nu­clear plant at Vog­tle, thinks build­ing in mod­ules can still work, de­spite the re­cent trou­ble. “Has it for the first units re­sulted in a lot of time sav­ings? No,” he said. “But does it have prom­ise? Yes.” Years ago, large work­forces built nu­clear power plants part by part. Us­ing so much la­bor was ex­pen­sive and dif­fi­cult to man­age. It in­creased the odds a work crew might make a mis­take or fall be- hind sched­ule. This time, the in­dus­try set­tled on a dif­fer­ent tech­nique. The util­i­ties in Ge­or­gia and South Carolina pur­chased power plants that use the AP1000 re­ac­tor de­signed by West­ing­house Elec­tric Co. Its mod­ules can weigh hun­dreds of tons and dwarf build­ings. The Shaw Mod­u­lar So­lu­tions fac­tory in Lake Charles, Louisiana, was to pro­duce large, pre­fab­ri­cated chunks of the plants. The large sec­tions are shipped to Plant Vog­tle in eastern Ge­or­gia near Way­nes­boro, and the Summer gen­er­a­tion sta­tion in South Carolina, where work­ers in­spect them, weld them into large mod­ules then hoist them into place with mas­sive der­ricks. A nu­clear engi­neer work­ing for Ge­or­gia’s util­ity reg­u­la­tors, Wil­liam Ja­cobs Jr., warned in De­cem­ber 2010 that the Louisiana fac­tory had ex­pe­ri­enced de­lays due to qual­ity as­sur­ance, de­sign and fab­ri­ca­tion prob­lems. He called it a “sig­nif­i­cant con­cern.” In­spec­tors for the U.S. Nu­clear Reg­u­la­tory Com­mis­sion halted their first re­view of the plant the fol­low­ing month, say­ing it was not ready for in­depth scru­tiny. Fol­low-up in­spec­tions found more is­sues with the plant’s qual­ity as­sur­ance pro­grams. NRC officials pro­posed a $36,400 fine against The Shaw Group for fir­ing a qual­ity in­sur­ance su­per­vi­sor else­where in its com­pany who warned a po­ten­tially faulty part may have been shipped to a project in New Mex­ico. The fine was dropped af­ter the com­pany agreed to changes. The agency also said work­ers at the Lake Charles fa­cil­ity feared rais­ing safety and qual­ity con­cerns to their su­per­vi­sors. The NRC con­cluded that a welder at the fac­tory took a qual­i­fi­ca­tion test for another worker in 2010, and that a su­per­vi­sor knew but did not re­port it. “I think the Lake Charles fa­cil­ity is just on a learn­ing curve that they can’t seem to get on top of,” said An­thony James, who mon­i­tors the South Carolina nu­clear project for the South Carolina Of­fice of Reg­u­la­tory Staff, which over­sees util­i­ties. Chicago Bridge & Iron Co. N.V. ac­quired The Shaw Group in Fe­bru­ary 2013. The new own­ers re­placed top man­agers at the fac­tory, adopted a less an­tag­o­nis­tic stance to­ward in­spec­tors and al­lowed South­ern Co. and SCANA Corp. to con­duct more over­sight. CBI spokes­woman Gen­try Brann re­fused in­ter­view re­quests.

Ja­panese get anti-ra­di­a­tion pills

JA­PANESE officials are hand­ing out ra­di­a­tion- block­ing io­dine tablets to peo­ple liv­ing in the shadow of two nu­clear re­ac­tors slated to restart this year, un­der­scor­ing con­cerns about atomic power af­ter the Fukushima cri­sis. The move to dis­trib­ute the pills, which help to re­duce ra­di­a­tion buildup in the body, started on Sun­day for those liv­ing within a 5km ra­dius of the Sendai nu­clear plant. The site, roughly 1 000km from Tokyo on the south­ern is­land of Kyushu, re­cently cleared new safety stan­dards and could start op­er­a­tions in a few months. It comes de­spite vo­cal op­po­si­tion to the plan, three years af­ter the worst atomic cri­sis in a gen­er­a­tion. Ja­pan’s Nu­clear Reg­u­la­tion Au­thor­ity said ear­lier this month that two atomic re­ac­tors at the Sendai plant were safe enough to switch back on, mark­ing a big step to­wards restart­ing nu­clear plants that were shut­tered af­ter Fukushima. Officials in Sat­sumasendai city and the Kagoshima pre­fec­ture said they were hand­ing out io­dine tablets to about 4 700 peo­ple in the area, some as young as three years old ev­eral dozen peo­ple have re­fused the free pills, which were part of stricter cen­tral govern­ment guide­lines aimed at pre­par­ing for another ac­ci­dent. The pills are used to pro­tect the hu­man thy­roid gland in the event of air­borne ra­di­a­tion, although there is some de­bate about their ef­fec­tive­ness. Wide­spread anti-nu­clear sen­ti­ment has sim­mered in Ja­pan ever since a quake- sparked tsunami in March 2011 slammed into the Fukushima power plant and sent re­ac­tors into melt­down – the worst atomic dis­as­ter since Ch­er­nobyl. The area re­mains a no- go zone and clean­ing up the crip­pled site could take decades. Tens of thou­sands of area res­i­dents may never be able to re­turn to their homes near the plant. – Sapa-AFP

Global nu­clear power ‘at its low­est’

af­ter three re­ac­tors melted down at Tokyo Elec­tric Power’s Fukushima Dai­ichi sta­tion north of the Ja­panese cap­i­tal af­ter an earthquake and tsunami. Ris­ing costs, con­struc­tion de­lays, pub­lic op­po­si­tion and ag­ing fleets of re­ac­tors will make it dif­fi­cult for nu­clear to re­verse the de­cline in its share of global en­ergy sup­ply, even af­ter two re­ac­tors in Ja­pan won pro­vi­sional ap­proval to restart ear­lier this month. Dis­count­ing the bulk of Ja­pan’s 48 re­ac­tors due to their long-term out­age, the re­port said the num­ber of op­er­at­ing units in the world has fallen to 388. 50 less than the peak in 2002. Nu­clear’s share of global power gen­er­a­tion has fallen to 10.8%, down from a high of 17.6% in 1996 and the low­est since the 1980s, it said. The re­port also pointed to de­lays in con­struc­tion projects, even in China where the govern­ment is strongly push­ing for nu­clear power to re­place heavy car­bon- emit­ting coal sta­tions. Of the 67 re­ac­tors now un­der con­struc­tion glob­ally, at least 49 were ex­pe­ri­enc­ing de­lays and eight had been un­der con­struc­tion for 20 years, it said. The av­er­age age of re­ac­tors has also in­creased, ris­ing to more than 28 years, while more than 170 units, or 44% of the to­tal, have been op­er­at­ing for more than 30 years. “More than 200 re­ac­tors may face shut­down in the com­ing two decades,” Tat­su­jiro Suzuki, a for­mer vice- chair­per­son of the Ja­pan Atomic En­ergy Com­mis­sion, said in the re­port. Re­new­able en­ergy is tak­ing up an in­creas­ing share of the en­ergy mix, the re­port said. In­stalled so­lar ca­pac­ity in China topped op­er­at­ing nu­clear ca­pac­ity, while in Spain more power was gen­er­ated from wind last year than any other source, beat­ing nu­clear for the first time. – Reuters

DIS­MAN­TLING CAL­I­FOR­NIA NUKE PLANT WILL COST $ 4.4B

Dis­man­tling the San Onofre nu­clear power plant in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia will take two decades and cost $ 4.4 bil­lion. South­ern Cal­i­for­nia Edi­son on Fri­day re­leased a road map that calls for de­com­mis­sion­ing the twin- re­ac­tor plant and restor­ing the prop­erty over two decades, begin­ning in 2016. Edi­son shut down the plant in 2012 af­ter ex­ten­sive dam­age was found to tubes car­ry­ing ra­dioac­tive wa­ter. It was closed for good last year. Edi­son plans to store the spent nu­clear fuel in steel can­is­ters at the site in­def­i­nitely un­til the fed­eral govern­ment comes up with a per­ma­nent stor­age so­lu­tion.

Avoid the nu­clear en­ergy path

IN KELVIN Kemm’s opinion piece pub­lished in The New Age on July 24, 2014, the nu­clear physi­cist made a seem­ingly strong case for why new nu­clear in­vest­ments are safe, nec­es­sary and would cre­ate new jobs. How­ever, I be­lieve there are sig­nif­i­cant prob­lems with the case he pre­sented in sup­port of nu­clear en­ergy. The re­al­ity is that gov­ern­ments around the world are re­think­ing nu­clear en­ergy. The Ger­man govern­ment has de­cided to phase out nu­clear en­ergy and 95% of Ital­ians voted against the use of nu­clear en­ergy in a ref­er­en­dum on the is­sue. The rea­son for this is be­cause nu­clear power has con­sis­tently de­liv­ered too lit­tle, too late and at too high a price. Kemm ar­gues that this coun­try’s en­ergy sup­ply is un­der strain, which makes new nu­clear in­vest­ments the best al­ter­na­tive. How­ever, if South Africa is con­cerned about en­ergy se­cu­rity then the last op­tion should be nu­clear. A nu­clear plant takes more than a decade to build, is de­pen­dent on a non-re­new­able re­source, cre­ates danger­ous ra­dioac­tive waste and is very costly. In con­trast, re­new­able en­ergy ca­pac­ity can be built much faster and with­out any of the safety, en­vi­ron­men­tal and fi­nan­cial risks as­so­ci­ated with nu­clear power. But the costs of nu­clear en­ergy may be the big­gest de­ter­rent for the peo­ple liv­ing in South Africa. The govern­ment it­self has stated that the costs of nu­clear en­ergy in­vest­ments may have been un­der­es­ti­mated and that new nu­clear in­vest­ments have the po­ten­tial to push up the price of elec­tric­ity sig­nif­i­cantly, much more sig­nif­i­cantly than the ex­ist­ing tar­iff in­creases that Eskom con­sis­tently ap­plies to the Na­tional En­ergy Reg­u­la­tor of South Africa ( Nersa) for. Mas­sive cost over­runs and de­lays are the norm for new nu­clear projects. Safety is another ma­jor con­cern, which Kemm sim­ply brushes over. Un­for­tu­nately, nu­clear re­ac­tors are in­her­ently un­safe. As wit­nessed af­ter Ch­er­nobyl in 1986, the Fukushima nu­clear dis­as­ter in March 2011 again ex­posed the fun­da­men­tal flaws of nu­clear re­ac­tors and high­lighted the se­ri­ous in­sti­tu­tional fail­ures in the over­sight of nu­clear safety. Some of these fail­ures are repli­cated world­wide by the nu­clear in­dus­try. As a re­sult mil­lions of peo­ple who live near re­ac­tors are at risk – and this in­cludes peo­ple in Cape Town. Kemm ar­gues that no­body was re­ally hurt from the Fukushima dis­as­ters – but mas­sive amounts of ra­dioac­tive ma­te­ri­als were re­leased into the at­mos­phere and in Ja­pan at least 150 000 peo­ple had to leave con­tam­i­nated ar­eas around the plant. Ex­perts ex­pect the 20km evac­u­a­tion zone around the plant will be un­in­hab­it­able for decades. The hu­man and fi­nan­cial cost as­so­ci­ated with the dis­as­ter has been huge for both the plant op­er­a­tors and af­fected com­mu­ni­ties. Nu­clear re­ac­tors will al­ways be vul­ner­a­ble to the deadly com­bi­na­tion of hu­man er­rors, de­sign fail­ures and nat­u­ral dis­as­ters. Even af­ter 60 years of nu­clear power there is no so­lu­tion avail­able for safe, long-term stor­age of ra­dioac­tive waste any­where in the world. At present, ra­dioac­tive waste around the world is stored in tem­po­rary fa­cil­i­ties while dis­cus­sions con­tinue about long-term stor­age. The most haz­ardous waste needs to be stored se­curely for hun­dreds of thou­sands of years be­fore it is con­sid­ered safe. There is no doubt that job cre­ation is a ma­jor pri­or­ity in South Africa. How­ever, nu­clear’s con­tri­bu­tion to job cre­ation is lim­ited and ex­pec­ta­tions of ma­jor job cre­ation around new nu­clear power are un­founded. There will be an in­crease in jobs dur­ing the con­struc­tion phase but these will drop sharply af­ter the con­struc­tion phase. By con­trast, re­new­able en­er­gies pro­vide a sus­tain­able, long-term in­crease in green jobs – up to a to­tal of 148 000 jobs by 2030 if South Africa fol­lows a clean en­ergy path­way. One of­ten hears the ar­gu­ment that re­new­able en­ergy will not be able to meet baseloD­elec­tric­ity sup­ply. How­ever, it is not an im­pos­si­ble task to have re­li­able base-load sup­ply with­out coal or nu­clear. Stor­age tech­nolo­gies are im­por­tant but there is no tech­no­log­i­cal bar­rier to get­ting 100% of South Africa’s elec­tric­ity from re­new­ables by 2050. The fu­ture lies in new en­ergy poli­cies and sys­tems. The ex­ist­ing sys­tem based on coal and nu­clear is fail­ing to sup­ply safe, af­ford­able elec­tric­ity for all South Africa and be­longs in the past. Com­bined re­new­able en­ergy tech­nolo­gies like so­lar, wind and biomass, to­gether with ac­tive de­mand-side man­age­ment and en­ergy ef­fi­ciency mea­sures, are al­ready demon­strat­ing their abil­ity to pro­vide safe and re­li­able elec­tric­ity around the world. The govern­ment should be pro­vid­ing plat­forms for hon­est and open de­bate rather than push­ing ahead with the risky nu­clear pro­gramme. There are far too many ques­tions left unanswered oth­er­wise, and all South Africans have a right to know where such a huge amount of money is be­ing spent. Safe and clean re­new­able en­ergy of­fers huge op­por­tu­ni­ties for South Africa and is ready to go. A fu­ture based on re­new­able en­ergy is what this coun­try re­ally needs. in Kelvin Kemm’s opinion piece the nu­clear physi­cist made a seem­ingly strong case for why new nu­clear in­vest­ments are safe, nec­es­sary and will cre­ate new jobs How­ever, i be­lieve that there are sig­nif­i­cant prob­lems with the case that he pre­sented in sup­port of nu­clear en­ergy the re­al­ity is that gov­ern­ments around the world are re­think­ing nu­clear en­ergy the Ger­man govern­ment has de­cided to phase out nu­clear en­ergy and 95% of ital­ians voted against the use of nu­clear en­ergy in a ref­er­en­dum on the is­sue the rea­son for this is be­cause nu­clear power has con­sis­tently de­liv­ered too lit­tle, too late and at too high a price

Ab­so­lute nu­clear power safety does not ex­ist and his­tor­i­cal lessons must be learned

Re­cently there was ru­mor that China and Rus­sia may jointly build nu­clear power plants in Harbin, in North­east China’s Hei­longjiang Province. The ru­mor has al­ready been de­nied by au­thor­i­ties, but there is still a heated pub­lic dis­cus­sion over the pos­si­bil­ity of new nu­clear power projects in China’s in­land ar­eas. I be­lieve there are some lessons that China has to learn in terms of nu­clear power se­cu­rity. China has to fos­ter a healthy pub­lic view of nu­clear power safety. Af­ter WWII, the Ja­panese pub­lic re­tained strong anti-nu­clear sen­ti­ments. At that time, the US, due to its global strat­egy needs, sought to fuel the Ja­panese econ­omy and boost its nu­clear power. To­gether with some Ja­panese in­ter­est groups, the US pro­claimed vig­or­ously in Ja­pan of the beau­ti­ful fu­ture of peace­fully us­ing nu­clear en­ergy. Many there­fore be­gan to buy into the rhetoric of the ab­so­lute safety of nu­clear power. Nonethe­less, real nu­clear power safety can only be achieved by con­stantly wran­gling with un­safe el­e­ments. In Ja­pan, the myth of ab­so­lute nu­clear power safety has led to var­i­ous short­com­ings in nu­clear power plant op­er­a­tion. Op­er­a­tors of­ten sought to hide in­ci­dents for fear of trig­ger­ing pub­lic panic and dam­ag­ing their own cred­i­bil­ity. In fact, be­fore the nu­clear leak catas­tro­phe in March 2011, there were many ac­ci­dents at the Fukushima Dai­ichi Nu­clear Power Plant. But Tokyo Elec­tric Power Com­pany chose to con­ceal these in­ci­dents, which ul­ti­mately led to the great tragedy. We must pre­vent nu­clear power plant op­er­a­tors from sac­ri­fic­ing safety to lower costs. When se­lect­ing sites, they should con­duct full and care­ful in­ves­ti­ga­tions of the lo­cal ge­ol­ogy and his­tor­i­cal records of lo­cal nat­u­ral dis­as­ters. A deep les­son from the Fukushima nu­clear dis­as­ter is in­ad­e­quate stud­ies about the records of past tsunamis. The in­ci­dent at the Tokai Nu­clear Power Plant in 1997, re­ferred to as the Tokaimura nu­clear ac­ci­dent, was caused when a dif­fer­ent pro­cess­ing method was adopted to save costs, which led to an ex­plo­sion. Su­per­vi­sion over nu­clear power plant op­er­a­tion must be strength­ened, and uni­fied man­age­ment must be ap­plied. In Ja­pan, there are nine elec­tric­ity com­pa­nies in­volved in the nu­clear power busi­ness. In com­par­i­son, only one com­pany is in charge of nu­clear power, which fa­cil­i­tates tak­ing pre­cau­tions for safety is­sues and emer­gency re­sponses. In 2005, the French govern­ment set up a steer­ing com­mit­tee to deal with post-nu­clear ac­ci­dent man­age­ment. As soon as the re­lease of ra­dioac­tive ma­te­rial is con­firmed, the steer­ing com­mit­tee will co­op­er­ate with the mil­i­tary and other de­part­ments to deal with the cri­sis. All these are good lessons that China can learn in terms of nu­clear power safety.

The cost of car­ing for Europe’s old nu­clear plants

LON­DON (Reuters) – Europe’s ag­ing nu­clear fleet will un­dergo more pro­longed out­ages over the next few years, re­duc­ing the re­li­a­bil­ity of power sup­ply and cost­ing plant op­er­a­tors many bil­lions of dol­lars. Nu­clear power pro­vides about a third of the Euro­pean Union’s elec­tric­ity gen­er­a­tion, but the 28-na­tion bloc’s 131 re­ac­tors are well past their prime, with an av­er­age age of 30 years. And the en­ergy com­pa­nies, al­ready feel­ing the pinch from fall­ing en­ergy prices and weak de­mand, want to ex­tend the life of their plants into the 2020s, to put off the drain of fund­ing new builds. Clos­ing the older nu­clear plants is not an op­tion for many EU coun­tries, which are fac­ing an en­ergy ca­pac­ity crunch as other types of plant are be­ing closed or moth­balled be­cause they can’t cover their op­er­at­ing costs, or to meet stricter en­vi­ron­men­tal reg­u­la­tion. Though re­new­able en­ergy sources such as wind and so­lar power are slowly ris­ing in the mix, they do not pro­duce a con­stant out­put, so other sources will al­ways be needed for backup. But as nu­clear plants age, per­for­mance can suf­fer, and out­ages – both sched­uled and un­planned – rise. With nu­clear safety in the spot­light since the 2011 re­ac­tor melt­down at Ja­pan’s Fukushima plant – which in turn prompted Ger­many to call time on its en­tire nu­clear fleet – op­er­a­tors can take no chances with their elderly plants, but the out­ages get longer and more dif­fi­cult. “These re­ac­tors were de­signed over 30 years ago. The peo­ple in­volved are ei­ther re­tired or dead, and most of the com­pa­nies in­volved no longer ex­ist,” said John Large, an in­de­pen­dent nu­clear engi­neer and an­a­lyst who has car­ried out work for Bri­tain’s Atomic En­ergy Au­thor­ity. Jean Tan­don­net, EDF Group’s nu­clear safety in­spec­tor, said in Jan­uary that its French fleet last year had a se­ries of “prob­lem­atic unit out­ages,” and sched­uled out­ages were ex­tended by an av­er­age of more than 26 days. Reg­u­lar main­te­nance and ma­jor equip­ment re­place­ment jobs had in­creased by 60 per­cent in the last six years, he said. “(At an ag­ing plant) out­ages take slightly longer, and there is more work to do to make sure it is in top con­di­tion. Safety comes ahead of any­thing else,” a spokes­woman for EDF En­ergy in the UK said. France is the EU’s nu­clear leader, its 58 re­ac­tors pro­duc­ing nearly three quar­ters of the coun­try’s elec­tric­ity. France’s nu­clear watch­dog will make a fi­nal de­ci­sion on whether to ex­tend the life of the French fleet to 50 years in 2018 or 2019. EDF has es­ti­mated the ex­ten­sion would cost 55 bil­lion eu­ros. “The av­er­age age of the (French) re­ac­tors is now about 30 years, which raises ques­tions about the in­vest­ment needed to en­able them to con­tinue op­er­at­ing, as ag­ing re­ac­tors in­creas­ingly need parts to be re­placed,” ac­cord­ing to the World Nu­clear In­dus­try Sta­tus re­port 2014. Though the EU has con­ducted risk and safety tests on the bloc’s nu­clear plants, en­vi­ron­men­tal cam­paign­ers say the tests failed to ad­dress risks as­so­ci­ated with ag­ing tech­nol­ogy, among other things. With ex­po­sure to ra­di­a­tion, high tem­per­a­tures and pres­sure, the com­po­nents of nu­clear plants take a bat­ter­ing over time. “They can, for ex­am­ple, be­come more brit­tle, sus­cep­ti­ble to crack­ing or less able to cope with tem­per­a­ture ex­tremes,” said An­thony Frog­gart, se­nior re­search fel­low at Lon­don- based think tank Chatham House. “While this can be mon­i­tored, it can be prob­lem­atic if ag­ing oc­curs at a greater rate than an­tic­i­pated or it oc­curs in ar­eas which are dif­fi­cult to ac­cess or mon­i­tor,” he added. As re­ac­tors age, there is also a risk of find­ing a generic de­sign flaw that could af­fect all the re­ac­tors in a coun­try if they are of the same de­sign. Bri­tain has 16 re­ac­tors in op­er­a­tion that came on­line from the 1970s to 1990s, and all but one will be re­tired by 2023 un­less they get ex­ten­sions. At the Wylfa plant in Wales – Bri­tain’s old­est, at 43 years – the one re­main­ing op­er­a­tional re­ac­tor was out of ser­vice for seven months this year. It was first taken down for main­te­nance, but the restart was de­layed as new prob­lems were dis­cov­ered. The re­ac­tor is sched­uled to be taken out of ser­vice for good in Septem­ber, but op­er­a­tor Mag­nox is seek­ing an ex­ten­sion to De­cem­ber 2015. This week, EDF En­ergy took off­line three of its nu­clear re­ac­tors at its Heysham 1 and Hartle­pool plants in Bri­tain for in­spec­tion which are both 31 years old, af­ter a crack was dis­cov­ered on a boiler spine of another Heysham 1 re­ac­tor with a sim­i­lar boiler de­sign, which had al­ready been taken off­line in June. The boil­ers will be checked for de­fects with ther­mal imagery done us­ing ro­bot­ics, and the firm will know more about what caused the fault af­ter the in­spec­tions, which should take around eight weeks, the EDF En­ergy spokes­woman said. EDF En­ergy has been in­cor­po­rat­ing ex­tra checks into its strat­egy for its ag­ing nu­clear plants since it in­her­ited them from pre­vi­ous op­er­a­tor Bri­tish En­ergy, she said. Bri­tish En­ergy was delisted in 2009 fol­low­ing fi­nan­cial col­lapse. Sev­eral un­planned out­ages had re­duced its power out­put, and its load fac­tor – the ra­tio of ac­tual out­put to its max­i­mum ca­pac­ity – fell to its low­est level of 56 per­cent in 2009, Bri­tain’s Na­tional Ar­chives show. This com­pares with EDF’s av­er­age load fac­tor for its French nu­clear fleet of 73 per­cent in 2013, which is also down from its high­est level of 77.6 per­cent in 2005, the com­pany’s 2013 re­sults show. The fleet’s net out­put of elec­tric­ity has de­clined from 429 ter­awatt hours in 2005 to 404 TWh last year, though this could be for a range of rea­sons, in­clud­ing weak en­ergy de­mand. Apart from re­duc­ing the re­li­a­bil­ity of Europe’s elec­tric­ity sup­ply, op­er­a­tors stand to lose many mil­lions of eu­ros from a sin­gle out­age from lost elec­tric­ity sales alone. Reuters cal­cu­la­tions, based on in­dus­try es­ti­mates of lost daily elec­tric­ity sales, show the out­ages at two EDF En­ergy plants could cost the firm some 155 mil­lion pounds dur­ing the out­ages from when they be­gan in June or Au­gust to Oc­to­ber, not in­clud­ing the costs of in­spec­tion and main­te­nance work. In­dus­try sources say the lost rev­enue from the loss of out­put at a 1 gi­gawatt plant could reach 1 mil­lion pounds a day. Bri­tish util­ity Cen­trica, which owns 20 per­cent of EDF En­ergy’s nu­clear fleet, said on Mon­day the re­duc­tion in out­put would re­duce its earn­ings per share by around 0.3 pence this year. More than half of Bel­gium’s nu­clear ca­pac­ity is off­line for main­te­nance. The three closed re­ac­tors are 29, 31 and 32 years old. Though it doesn’t break out the nu­clear data separately, sta­tis­tics from Europe’s elec­tric­ity in­dus­try as­so­ci­a­tion Eur­elec­tric show both planned and un­planned out­ages mostly in­creased at ther­mal power plants in eight Euro­pean coun­tries ex­am­ined, and pe­ri­ods of en­ergy un­avail­abil­ity in­creased from around 12.8 per­cent in 2002 to 18.3% in 2011. As the plants age, that can only in­crease.

“The rate of ra­dioac­tiv­ity re­leased into the at­mos­phere in Fukushima re­mains dan­ger­ously high.”

About three years ago, the­world stood wit­ness to the sec­ond- most ag­gres­sive nu­clear dis­as­ter of our era since the Ch­er­nobyl nu­clear dis­as­ter of 1986. Across world me­dia, Ja­panese nu­clear work­ers were seen fight­ing fran­ti­cally to cool down three nu­clear re­ac­tors of the Fukushima Dai­ichi power plant at a time when the re­ac­tors were in full swing and dam­aged by both the most pow­er­ful earth­quake that ever hit Ja­pan and a vi­o­lent tsunami with waves tow­er­ing 12 to 14me­tres in height. Send­ing shock­waves through­out the globe, the dis­as­ter dev­as­tated the re­gion, its in­hab­i­tants and its wild life. Not to­men­tion the thou­sands and thou­sands of lives lost and count less se­vere in­juries to those who were for­tu­nate to sur­vive. Sur­vivors were left home­less and dispir­ited. Their home­land dev­as­tated by crit­i­cal lev­els of ra­di­a­tion; the re­gion plagued by nu­clear con­tam­i­na­tion that was set to out­live most of the sur­vivors. More than three years on, and not with­out con­cern, the sit­u­a­tion on site re­mains ex­tremely volatile. There is still a very real and se­ri­ous threat of nu­clear pro­lif­er­a­tion com­ing fromthe same power plant. Con­tin­u­ing to date, hun­dreds of tonnes of ra­dioac­tive wa­ter is gen­er­ated by the first four units of the Fukushima power plant. This sit­u­a­tion is ag­gra­vated by the seem­ing in­abil­ity of the Ja­panese op­er­a­tor’s nu­clear ex­perts to stop the fis­sion of hun­dreds of tonnes of ura­nium inside the re­ac­tors of units 1, 2 and 3 and that of the 250 tonnes of ura­nium bars stocked into the fuel spent pool of Unit 4. Hun­dreds of tonnes of ra­dioac­tive wa­ter is pol­lut­ing the Pa­cific Ocean, the soil, the sub­soil and the ground­wa­ter of the Fukushima Dai­ichi site and its sur­round­ings. It is hard to fathom the reach of the im­pact of con­tin­u­ous ra­dioac­tiv­ity fo­cused in one area over pro­tracted pe­ri­ods of time. The full range of con­se­quences is po­ten­tially im­mea­sur­able. The rate of ra­dioac­tiv­ity re­leased into the at­mos­phere in Fukushima re­mains dan­ger­ously high for the flora, fauna and not to men­tion the risk of con­tam­i­na­tion to hu­man be­ings gen­er­ally. This stands as a con­tin­ued blow to Fukushima’s and its neigh­bour­ing ar­eas’ re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion post 2011. De­spite this, eco­log­i­cal or­gan­i­sa­tions, lo­cal me­dia, rel­e­vant Ja­panese au­thor­i­ties ap­pear to be mute on the dan­gers. The gen­eral si­lence on the sub­ject has given the world the false im­pres­sion that the Fukushima site is clear of all nu­clear dan­ger. This no doubt helped boost Ja­pan’s sub­se­quent suc­cess­ful bid to host the 2020 Sum­mer Olympic Games. The Fukushima nu­clear dis­as­ter is not a na­tional prob­lem limited to Ja­panese bor­ders. Ra­dioac­tive emis­sions raise very real cross- bor­der con­cerns. Per­haps the Ja­panese au­thor­i­ties should have called upon the com­pe­ten­cies of other coun­tries spe­cialised in nu­clear civil en­ergy, which are-well- armed to fight against this nu­clear dis­as­ter, so as to avoid ra­dioac­tive emis­sions be­ing gen­er­ated over pro­tracted pe­ri­ods of time. At the time of writ­ing this ar­ti­cle, it has not yet been de­clared with any de­gree of cer­tainty by in­de­pen­dent in­ter­na­tional nu­clear en­ergy or­gan­i­sa­tions when this hor­ren­dous nu­clear ac­ci­dent will be to­tally brought un­der con­trol. Three years on, there is no con­clu­sive con­fir­ma­tion of the safety of the Fukushima plant. This makes for a very dan­ger­ous sit­u­a­tion, with con­se­quences that may well be im­mea­sur­able in the longer term. Un­jus­ti­fied crit­i­cism On a dif­fer­ent note, some very ef­fec­tive nu­clear tech­nolo­gies for the pro­duc­tion of ef­fi­cient and safe en­ergy have widely been painted with un­cer­tainty and neg­a­tiv­ity. In the wake of the Fukushima dis­as­ter, swarms of pro­test­ers and lob­by­istswere quick to jump on to the band­wagon in an at­tempt to dis­suade global par­tic­i­pants from fur­ther mo­nop­o­lis­ing nu­clear en­ergy. Not even France, widely re­garded as a lead­ing force in civil nu­clear power gen­er­a­tion, was spared un­jus­ti­fied crit­i­cism. It is im­por­tant to note that France gen­er­ates ap­prox­i­mately 80 per cent of its en­ergy de­mands through nu­clear en­ergy and also sup­plies neigh­bour­ing coun­tries on the back of its nu­clear ex­ploits. It has done so for decades with­out dis­as­ter. Dis­as­ters do not hap­pen on their own. They are of­ten the re­sult of gross mis­takes. The present- day chal­lenge is to learn from past mis­takes with a view to mod­ernise prac­tices to as­sure high­est stan­dards of safety. The UAE has set a strong ex­am­ple for coun­tries that have adopted less- favourable nu­clear en­ergy poli­cies due to fears of another Fukushima- like dis­as­ter in their back­yard with­out nec­es­sar­ily re­al­is­ing or be­ing aware of the grave er­rors com­mit­ted dur­ing the con­struc­tion, op­er­a­tion and main­te­nance phases of the Fukushima nu­clear plant. For the con­struc­tion of the Braka nu­clear power plant of 5,600MWe, con­sist­ing of four units each with re­ac­tor APR- 1400, the UAE has de­vel­oped a so­phis­ti­cated frame­work with the high­est in­ter­na­tional safety stan­dards, ap­ply­ing full trans­parency and main­tain­ing close col­lab­o­ra­tion with na­tional and in­ter­na­tional en­ti­ties — prin­ci­pally, the In­ter­na­tional Atomic En­ergy Agency and the World As­so­ci­a­tion of Nu­clear Op­er­a­tors. As such, Fukushima is taken as a word of warn­ing and not as a door- closer on nu­clear en­ergy de­vel­op­ment as an achiev­able al­ter­na­tive con­duit for safe, sus­tain­able and en­vi­ron­ment­friendly al­ter­na­tive to other con­ven­tional sources of en­ergy.

Nu­clear re­ac­tors a wor­ry­ing fac­tor amid chaos

WASH­ING­TON — As Ukraine looks like a coun­try tee­ter­ing on the edge of war, there’s an im­por­tant fac­tor to keep an eye on: the coun­try’s 15 nu­clear re­ac­tors. “There haven’t been many con­flicts in states with nu­clear power fa­cil­i­ties in the past, so we’re re­ally en­ter­ing un­known ter­ri­tory here,” said Jef­frey Mankoff, deputy di­rec­tor of the Cen­ter for Strate­gic and In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies’ Rus­sia and Eura­sia Pro­gram. NATO has al­ready shown its con­cern, send­ing a small team of civil­ian ex­perts to Ukraine in April to ad­vise the gov­ern­ment on the safety of its in­fra­struc­ture. There is a his­tor­i­cal com­po­nent to the anx­i­ety: In April 1986, a re­ac­tor of the Ukrainian nu­clear power plant at Chornobyl ex­ploded, caus­ing the worst nu­clear dis­as­ter in his­tory, and a high rate of can­cer among emer­gency work­ers and peo­ple liv­ing in the af­fected ar­eas even to­day. Chornobyl hap­pened in a time of peace: To­day, Ukraine’s re­ac­tors op­er­ate near a war zone. Clos­est to the fight­ing is Za­por­izhzhya nu­clear power sta­tion, which houses six sep­a­rate re­ac­tors. There are doubts about the safety mech­a­nisms in place in th­ese power plants. Ger­man pub­lic broad­caster ARD has warned that “a sec­ond Chornobyl dis­as­ter will be in­evitable if the fight­ing in Ukraine can­not be stopped.” Sergej Boschko, who heads Ukraine’s nu­clear reg­u­la­tory agency, told ARD that “no nu­clear power plant is pro­tected against mil­i­tary at­tacks. They are not made for war, they are made for peace.” Nu­clear ma­te­rial also presents a prob­lem: ARD re­ports that 100 con­tain­ers of burned nu­clear fu­els were found in the open air 190 kilo­me­tres away from the front line. This waste prod­uct is ra­dioac­tive and dan­ger­ous if stored in­cor­rectly. Hans- Josef Al­lelein, the chair­man of Ger­many’s In­sti­tute for Re­ac­tor Safety and Re­ac­tor Tech­nol­ogy, said th­ese re­ports would in­di­cate a “real dan­ger” if true. “Such con­tain­ers could the­o­ret­i­cally be used as dirty bombs,” Al­lelein ex­plained. “In the end, the area around a nu­clear power plant needs to be se­cured with a re­li­able aird­e­fence sys­tem as it is for ex­am­ple in­stalled at French power plants.” Although that’s a risk, other ex­perts doubt things would go that far. “If Rus­sia’s goal is to es­tab­lish in­flu­ence, it doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense to cause a nu­clear dis­as­ter with bor­der- cross­ing mass ca­su­al­ties and ra­di­a­tion,” Mankoff said, in­stead sug­gest­ing that a nu­clear re­ac­tor is far more likely to be hit by ac­ci­dent than in­ten­tion­ally. Un­for­tu­nately, even with th­ese risks, shut­ting down the plants is un­re­al­is­tic. Ac­cord­ing to the U. S. En­ergy In­for­ma­tion Ad­min­is­tra­tion, Ukraine’s en­ergy con­sump­tion re­lies on nu­clear en­ergy by 18 per cent, and coal con­trib­utes about 28 per cent. Much of the rest of Ukraine’s power sup­ply comes from another trou­bled source: gas from Rus­sia. “If the win­ter is cold and other coun­tries don’t jump in to help Ukraine, its en­ergy re­sources could be ex­hausted by early spring,” said Ilya Zaslavskiy, a Robert Bosch Fel­low at the London- based Chatham House.

UN­KNOWN TER­RI­TORY

As Ukraine looks like a coun­try tee­ter­ing on the edge of war, there’s an im­por­tant fac­tor to keep an eye on: the coun­try’s 15 nu­clear re­ac­tors. “There haven’t been many con­flicts in states with nu­clear power fa­cil­i­ties in the past, so we’re re­ally en­ter­ing un­known ter­ri­tory here,” said Jef­frey Mankoff, deputy di­rec­tor of the Cen­ter for Strate­gic and In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies’ Rus­sia and Eura­sia Pro­gram. NATO has al­ready shown its con­cern, send­ing a small team of civil­ian ex­perts to Ukraine in April to ad­vise the gov­ern­ment on the safety of its in­fra­struc­ture. There is a his­tor­i­cal compo- nent to the anx­i­ety: In April 1986, a re­ac­tor of the Ukrainian nu­clear-power plant at Chornobyl ex­ploded, caus­ing the worst nu­clear dis­as­ter in his­tory, and a high rate of can­cer among emer­gency work­ers and peo­ple liv­ing in the af­fected ar­eas even to­day. Chornobyl hap­pened in a time of peace: To­day, Ukraine’s re­ac­tors op­er­ate near a war zone. Clos­est to the fight­ing is Za­por­izhzhya nu­clear power sta­tion, which houses six sep­a­rate re­ac­tors. There are doubts about the safety mech­a­nisms in place in th­ese power plants. Ger­man pub­lic broad­caster ARD has warned that “a sec­ond Chornobyl dis­as­ter will be in­evitable if the fight­ing in Ukraine can­not be stopped.” Sergej Boschko, who heads Ukraine’s nu­clear reg­u­la­tory agency, told ARD that “no nu­clear power plant is pro­tected against mil­i­tary at­tacks. They are not made for war, they are made for peace.” Nu­clear ma­te­rial also presents a prob­lem: ARD re­ports that 100 con­tain­ers of burned nu­clear fu­els were found in the open air 190 kilo­me­tres away from the front line. This waste prod­uct is ra­dioac­tive and dan­ger­ous if stored in­cor­rectly. Hans-Josef Al­lelein, the chair­man of Ger­many’s In­sti­tute for Re­ac­tor Safety and Re­ac­tor Tech­nol­ogy, said th­ese re­ports would in­di­cate a “real dan­ger” if true. “Such con­tain­ers could the­o­ret­i­cally be used as dirty bombs,” Al­lelein ex­plained. “In the end, the area around a nu­clear power plant needs to be se­cured with a re­li­able air de­fence sys­tem as it is for ex­am­ple in­stalled at French power plants.” Although that’s a risk, other ex- perts doubt things would go that far. “If Rus­sia’s goal is to es­tab­lish in­flu­ence, it doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense to cause a nu­clear dis­as­ter with bor­der-cross­ing mass ca­su­al­ties and ra­di­a­tion,” Mankoff said, in­stead sug­gest­ing that a nu­clear re­ac­tor is far more likely to be hit by ac­ci­dent than in­ten­tion­ally. Un­for­tu­nately, even with th­ese risks, shut­ting down the plants is un­re­al­is­tic. Ac­cord­ing to the U.S. En­ergy In­for­ma­tion Ad­min­is­tra­tion, Ukraine’s en­ergy con­sump­tion re­lies on nu­clear en­ergy by 18 per cent, and coal con­trib­utes about 28 per cent. Much of the rest of Ukraine’s power sup­ply comes from another trou­bled source — gas from Rus­sia. “If the win­ter is cold and other coun­tries don’t jump in to help Ukraine, its en­ergy re­sources could be ex­hausted by early spring,” said Ilya Zaslavskiy, a Robert Bosch Fel­low at the London-based Chatham House.

Black­out fears as four nu­clear plants stay shut un­til the win­ter

DE­LAYS in restart­ing four key nu­clear power sta­tions after a safety shut­down could bring an elec­tric­ity cri­sis this win­ter. The shut­downs have dan­ger­ously nar­rowed the gap be­tween de­mand and the amount which Na­tional Grid can sup­ply to homes and busi­nesses. The squeeze is now likely to step up the regime where ma­jor en­ergy users, such as fac­to­ries, are paid mil­lions to shut down in peak evening pe­ri­ods. This strict mea­sure is vi­tal to pro­tect homes and fam­i­lies by en­sur­ing there is enough elec­tric­ity on the grid to keep the lights and heat­ing on. Sep­a­rately, Na­tional Grid has asked power firms to boost sup­plies this win­ter to cover the threat­ened short­fall. The prob­lems will be seen as fur­ther ev­i­dence that Bri­tain’s di­lap­i­dated en­ergy sup­ply sys­tem can­not meet the na­tion’s needs. Crit­ics will also point to the decision to spend bil­lions on green en­ergy. Fears over ‘We will be cut­ting it to the bone’ win­ter sup­plies were prompted by the tem­po­rary shut­down of four nu­clear re­ac­tors at Heysham and Hartle­pool owned by EDF En­ergy. A crack was found in a boiler at one of them in Au­gust and the clo­sure was ini­tially ex­pected to be short term. But now the French power gi­ant is warn­ing there will be only be a ‘phased re­turn’ be­tween the end of Oc­to­ber and the end of De­cem­ber. An­a­lyst Peter Ather­ton, of Liberum Cap­i­tal, said: ‘Th­ese are old re­ac­tors and when you go to solve one prob­lem, you of­ten find another you didn’t know about. ‘That could put them out of ac­tion for months. Los­ing th­ese power sta­tions also means we have lost the very small amount of fat in the sys­tem. ‘If the weather’s un­usu­ally bad or there isn’t enough wind or some- thing else goes wrong, then we will be cut­ting it to the bone.’ Reg­u­la­tor Ofgem and Na­tional Grid, which runs the power dis­tri­bu­tion net­work, will pay ma­jor en­ergy users £75mil­lion in the next two years to turn off l i ghts and ma­chines on week­day win­ter af­ter­noons. The cost will go on to the bills of homes and busi­nesses. Jeremy Nicholson, di­rec­tor of the En­ergy In­ten­sive Users Group, said this sort of dras­tic ac­tion might be ex­pected in a Third World na­tion. ‘This can’t be a sus­tain­able way of man­ag­ing the en­ergy sys­tem,’ he added. ‘In­dus­try has to have ac­cess to se­cure power sup­plies.’ It is un­likely Scot­land’s two nu­clear power sta­tions will be able to make up any short­fall. Work be­gan only last month on a ma­jor over­haul at Hun­ter­ston in Ayr­shire. EDF En­ergy is in­vest­ing more than £20mil­lion to ex­tend the work­ing life of the plant, which opened in 1976, by a fur­ther seven years. It was sched­uled to be de­com­mis­sioned in 2011 but will now gen­er­ate elec­tric­ity un­til 2023. Sta­tion di­rec­tor Colin Weir said: ‘We have to look at what’s age­ing and re­place some com­po­nents.’ The nu­clear plant at Tor­ness in East Loth­ian be­gan op­er­at­ing in 1988 and is due to be de­com­mis­sioned in 2023.

Nu­clear power’s in­san­i­ties — tax­payer-guar­an­teed

The Nu­clear En­ergy In­sti­tute — the cor­po­rate lob­by­ist in Wash­ing­ton, D.C. for the dis­in­te­grat­ing atomic power in­dus­try — doesn’t have to worry about reper­cus­sions from the neg­a­tive im­pacts of nu­clear power. For nu­clear power is a govern­ment/ tax­payer-guar­an­teed boon­dog­gle whose stag­ger­ing costs, in­curred and de­ferred, are ab­sorbed by Amer­i­can tax­pay­ers via a supine govern­ment reg­u­la­tory and sub­sidy ap­pa­ra­tus. So if you go to work at the NEI and you read about the ab­sence of any per­ma­nent ra­dioac­tive waste stor­age site, no prob­lem, the govern­ment/tax­pay­ers are re­spon­si­ble for trans­port­ing and safe­guard­ing that lethal garbage for cen­turies. If your re­ac­tors ex­pe­ri­ence ever larger cost over­runs and de­lays, as is now hap­pen­ing with two new re­ac­tors in South Carolina, no prob­lem — the supine state reg­u­la­tory com­mis­sions will just pass the bill on to con­sumers, de­spite the fact that con­sumers re­ceive no elec­tric­ity from these un­fin­ished plants. If these plants, and two oth­ers in Ge­or­gia un­der con­struc­tion, ex­pe­ri­ence fi­nan­cial squeezes fromWall Street, no prob­lem, a supine Con­gress has al­ready passed am­ple tax­payer loan guar­an­tees that­make Un­cle Sam (you, the tax­payer) bear the cost of the risk. If there were to be an ac­ci­dent such as the one that hap­pened in Fukushima, Ja­pan, no prob­lem, un­der the Price-An­der­son Act, the govern­ment/tax­pay­ers bear the cost of the vast amount of dam­age from any nu­clear power plant­melt­down. To put this cost into per­spec­tive, a re­port by the Atomic En­ergy Com­mis­sion about 50 years ago es­ti­mated that a class-9 melt­down could­make an area “the size of Penn­syl­va­nia” un­in­hab­it­able. Why do we stand for such a dooms­day tech­nol­ogy all over Amer­ica that is un­eco­nomic, unin­sur­able, un­safe, unnecessary (it can’t com­pete with en­ergy con­ser­va­tion and re­new­able en­er­gies), un­evacuable (try evac­u­at­ing the greater New York City area froma dis­as­ter at the two In­dian Point plants 30miles fromMan­hat­tan) and un­pro­tectable (ei­ther from sab­o­tage or earthquake)? David Free­man, the fa­mous en­ergy en­gi­neer and lawyer, who has run four gi­ant util­i­ties (the Ten­nessee Val­ley Au­thor­ity, the SMUD com­plex — where he closed the Ran­cho Seco Nu­clear Plant — the New York Power Au­thor­ity and the Los An­ge­les Depart­ment ofWater and Power), sums up the his­tory of nu­clear power thisway: “Nu­clear power, pro­moted as too cheap tome­ter, turned out to be too ex­pen­sive to use, the road to nu­clear pro­lif­er­a­tion, and the cre­ator of ra­dioac­tive trash that has no place to go.” Right-wing con­ser­va­tive/lib­er­tar­i­ans call it ex­treme “crony cap­i­tal­ism.” Nu­clear power plants are shut­ting down. In 2013, four re­ac­tors shut down: Crys­tal River 3, Ke­waunee, San Onofre 2 and San Onofre 3. Now, Michael Peck, a se­nior fed­eral nu­clear ex­pert, is urg­ing that the last nuke plant left in Cal­i­for­nia, Di­ablo Canyon, be shut down un­til the Nu­clear Reg­u­la­tory Com­mis­sion’s reg­u­la­tors can demon­strate that the two re­ac­tors at this site can with­stand shak­ing fromthree nearby earthquake faults. Mean­while, the hu­man, en­vi­ron­men­tal and eco­nomic dis­as­ters at Ja­pan’s Fukushima Dai­ichi power plants keep metas­ta­siz­ing. Sci­en­tists are pro­duc­ing stud­ies that show se­ri­ous bi­o­log­i­cal ef­fects (ge­netic dam­age and­mu­ta­tion rates) of ra­di­a­tion on plant, in­sect and bird life in and around the large, cor­doned off, un­in­hab­it­able area sur­round­ing these closed down re­ac­tors. The gi­ant po­lit­i­cally-in­flu­en­tial elec­tric util­ity com­pany un­der­es­ti­mated the like­li­hood of a pow­er­ful earthquake and tsunami. In the early nine­teen-sev­en­ties, the in­dus­try and its gov­ern­men­tal pa­trons were ex­pect­ing 1,000 nu­clear plants — 100 of the­ma­long the Cal­i­for­nia coast — to be op­er­at­ing by the year 2000. In­stead, a lit­tle­more than a hun­dred­were built na­tion­wide. In re­al­ity, as of 2014, there are only 100 op­er­a­ble re­ac­tors, many of which are ag­ing. The pit­falls are real and nu­mer­ous. In ad­di­tion to grow­ing pub­lic op­po­si­tion, and lower-priced nat­u­ral gas at­tract­ing elec­tric util­i­ties, there are the ever-present, sky­rock­et­ing costs and de­lays of con­struc­tion, re­pair and the ques­tion of where to store nu­clear waste. These costs are what make Wall Street fi­nanciers turn their backs on nu­clear power un­less the in­dus­try can ram more tens of bil­lions of dol­lars in govern­ment/tax­payer loan guar­an­tees through Con­gress. And­what is all this nu­clear tech­nol­ogy, from the ura­nium mines to the nu­clear plants to the still ab­sent­waste stor­age dumps for? To boil wa­ter! These are the tragic fol­lieswhen the cor­po­rate masters and their po­lit­i­cal min­ions, who are ready and will­ing to guar­an­tee tax­payer fund­ing, have no “skin in the game.” This kind of stag­ger­ing power with­out re­spon­si­bil­ity is in­deed ra­dioac­tive.

Burn­ing ques­tion: is nu­clear en­ergy safe?

WHILE oth­ers might ar­gue dif­fer­ently, say­ing that the coun­try and its cit­i­zens stand to ben­e­fit enor­mously from the plan to in­tro­duce nu­clear en­ergy, the re­al­ity is that the gov­ern­ment risks be­ing ac­cused of be­ing un­demo­cratic if it pushes ahead with the project with­out a pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion. Ir­re­spec­tive of many be­liefs that the nu­clear power project will open the door for the coun­try to ac­cess tech­nolo­gies, fund­ing and nu­clear de­vel­op­ment in­fra­struc­ture or bring thou­sands of jobs, first and fore­most proper con­sul­ta­tion is highly re­quired to iron out press­ing is­sues, costs and the safety of the en­tire pop­u­la­tion. There are more nega­tives than pos­i­tives in this multi­bil­lion­rand nu­clear power project. Those push­ing for the project should take into con­sid­er­a­tion Ja­pan’s Fukushima nu­clear dis­as­ter in 2011. If suc­cess­fully brought here to our shores, the project could in the long run cre­ate dan­ger­ous long­term ra­dioac­tive waste with heavy re­quire­ments for safe cus­tody over a pe­riod of hun­dreds of years. For ex­am­ple, the Fukushima nu­clear dis­as­ter is the fresh re­minder of the risks to health and safety of cit­i­zens should a nu­clear melt­down ever oc­cur in South Africa. Oth­ers are al­ready ar­gu­ing that the project will al­low the coun­try to im­ple­ment am­bi­tious plans for the cre­ation by 2030 of 9 600MW of new nu­clear ca­pac­i­ties based on mod­ern and safe tech­nolo­gies. But for the Na­tional Union of Minework­ers (NUM), that does not count. The union stands firm in its belief that the us­age of other re­new­able en­ergy should be an op­tion rather than opt­ing for nu­clear en­ergy. At its cen­tral com­mit­tee con­fer­ence four months ago, the union ex­pressed its con­cerns and called on the gov­ern­ment to take the views and as­pi­ra­tions of South Africans first be­fore go­ing ahead with the project. After care­ful en­gage­ment, the union has noted the chal­lenges in fi­nanc­ing nu­clear en­ergy projects, the ap­par­ent nu­clear project man­age­ment skills deficit, time de­lays and bud­get over­runs, ra­dioac­tive waste man­age­ment and safety and health risks as­so­ci­ated with nu­clear en­ergy, there­fore con­cludes that the coun­try is not ready to embrace nu­clear en­ergy. They in­stead sup­ported the project for medic­i­nal and re­search pur­poses. The union em­pha­sised that its po­si­tion against the nu­clear en­ergy was not a bat­tle that could only be waged and won in air­con­di­tioned board­rooms, this is a strug­gle to be waged through the rolling­out of mass ac­tion across the coun­try and will be mo­bil­is­ing re­sources and pro­gres­sive forces to this ef­fect. Fur­ther­more, a project of this na­ture must be trans­par­ent and the in­vest­ment must be cost­ef­fec­tive since nu­clear projects are in­her­ently ex­pen­sive. Any ar­range­ment be­hind » » » » » closed doors of a project like this will be deeply con­cern­ing. Once again, the union’s na­tional ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee pro­nounced it­self re­cently that it sup­ported the en­ergy mix and ex­plo­ration and us­age on other re­new­able en­ergy op­tions. The NEC be­lieves that there needs to be proper con­sul­ta­tion in line with the Con­sti­tu­tion. In terms of Sec­tion 2117(1) in fur­ther­ing ser­vice de­liv­ery through ten­der­ing pro­cesses, the gov­ern­ment must con­sult, which it has not done ad­e­quately thus far. This fol­lowed me­dia re­ports that the gov­ern­ment has al­ready signed a tril­lion rand nu­clear deal with the Rus­sian State Atomic En­ergy Cor­po­ra­tion (Rosatom) in se­cret. The cost is non­sen­si­cal, this is ac­cord­ing to gen­eral sec­re­tary Frans Baleni. The NUM has noted that the Medupi and Kusile coal­fired sta­tions un­der con­struc­tion to­gether cost less than the nu­clear deal, but are ex­pected to gen­er­ate the same amount of elec­tric­ity. “It just doesn’t make sense and we know that ex­pen­di­ture of this na­ture starts small and is un­der­bud­geted and they go way above and then we talk about eco­nomic cre­ativ­ity, mean­ing cor­rup­tion,” Baleni ar­gues. Also of im­por­tant con­cern is that the coun­try has no pol­icy frame­work to deal with the man­age­ment of nu­clear waste. Al­low­ing the project to con­tinue will also vi­o­late pri­or­i­ties agreed to in the gov­ern­ment’s New Growth Path (NDP). The NDP cau­tions the gov­ern­ment not to rush on nu­clear in­vest­ment. In ad­di­tion, the In­te­grated Re­source Plan clearly in­di­cates that South Africa should con­sider nu­clear in­vest­ment at least after 2025. Th­ese are gov­ern­ment pre­scripts which the gov­ern­ment is not fol­low­ing. It sets a bad prece­dence if the gov­ern­ment it­self does not follow its own of­fi­cial rec­om­men­da­tions. Other stake­hold­ers may not feel obliged to follow na­tional plans in the fu­ture. Nu­clear en­ergy at the mo­ment is one of the worst choices in South Africa. It is noth­ing more than a dead end and likely to dou­ble elec­tric­ity prices, while putting many South Africans at risk. @Nana_ MJ: @Muzi_ De­signer: Gen­er­a­tions’ fault @AncCadres: Revo­lu­tion!!! @Lek­sDogg: RT @AncCadres: Revo­lu­tion!!! Kelly Khu­malo and Senzo Meyiwa back to­gether @mpumisan: and let the goals rain @tem­bisa_ J: early morn­ing news @madala101: Is Senzo still mar­ried @madala101: did Senzo per­haps di­vorce his wife. cc @kel­ly_khu­malo @MSkhao: err @YayaRSA: They must NEVER! @Hur­tism: It’s go­ing to be sus­pended like Gen­er­a­tions @BayaMdingi: Claps once... @De_Im­pe­rial: Ha­haha... @SamkeloMiya: this the cou­ple that helps the Rand get stronger. I think. @MafkaRadebe: Kelly ur old for Senzo...wer is jub jub nw Lira’s ‘Her­story’ @AMKENThonkha: The best we have in mzansi @Miss_ LIRA

Ar­gentina set for nu­clear growth

War with an in­dus­trial power and nu­clear tech­nol­ogy de­vel­oped un­der mil­i­tary rule does not pre­clude a coun­try from en­rich­ing ura­nium. Just ask Ar­gentina. As world pow­ers reached an im­passe with Iran over its nu­clear work, Ar­gentina says it will be­come just the 11th na­tion to be­gin large-scale en­rich­ment of the heavy metal used for in­dus­trial, med­i­cal and en­ergy ap­pli­ca­tions. It has been pro­duc­ing en­riched ura­nium on an ex­per­i­men­tal scale since the 1980s, the govern­ment told the 48-na­tion Nu­clear Sup­pli­ers Group meet­ing in Buenos Aires last month. Rafael Mar­i­ano Grossi, Ar­gentina’s in­ter­na­tional atomic en­ergy agency am­bas­sador, says ne­go­tia­tors at log­ger­heads in Vi­enna should pay more at­ten­tion to cases such as his coun­try, where sci­en­tists used nu­clear re­search as a base to de­velop other tech­nolo­gies such as radar and satel­lites. “In the mid-1980s, due to fi­nan­cial re­stric­tions, the do­mes­tic nu­clear pro­gramme was paral­ysed,” says Mr Grossi, who also chairs the Nu­clear Sup­pli­ers Group that guards against un­fet­tered ac­cess to atomic ma­te­ri­als and tech­nol­ogy. Key for the longevity of Ar­gentina’s nu­clear pro­gramme was its abil­ity to iden­tify “prod­ucts and ex­per­tise which were mar­ketable”, he says. Diplo­mats who hag­gled with Iran for 16 days in Vi­enna were hes­i­tant to ap­ply lessons from Ar­gentina’s nu­clear re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion fol­low­ing its de­feat by the United King­dom in the 1982 Falk­land War and sub­se­quent tran­si­tion to civil­ian rule. Nu­clear dilem­mas the globe is fac­ing in Ar­gentina and Iran are unique unto them­selves, says a US of­fi­cial at the Iran talks who asked not to be named. “We’ve al­ways been weak in learn­ing the lessons from other nu­clear cases,” says the UK’s for­mer am­bas­sador to Iran, Richard Dal­ton. With­out a blue­print to go by, “deal­ing with Iran is very dif­fi­cult”. Iran says in­ter­na­tional nu­clear mar­kets can­not be trusted to sup­ply the fuel it needs. World pow­ers point to Iran’s in­con­sis­tent his­tory on is­sues of nu­clear trans­parency to ar­gue for higher ver­i­fi­ca­tion stan­dards be­fore Iran can be trusted to wield the tech­nol­ogy. While tout­ing promised ac­cess to more ad­vanced nu­clear tech­nolo­gies and the sub­stan­tial eco­nomic ben­e­fits that a long- term ac­cord would yield for Iran, the US of­fi­cial says the coun­try should un­der no con­di­tion be al­lowed to mount in­dus­trial-scale en­rich­ment for at least a decade. While Iran has mas­tered ura­nium-en­rich­ment tech­nol­ogy that can be used both to gen­er­ate power and build weapons, it is con­trac­tu­ally bound un­til 2022 to buy high­pre­ci­sion fuel for its sole nu­clear plant in Bushehr from Rus­sia’s state-owned Rosatom. Global nu­clear ven­dors such as Rosatom, Areva and Toshiba’s West­ing­house Elec­tric make money not only by sell­ing re­ac­tors but also by sup­ply­ing the com­plex low-en­riched-ura­nium fuel as­sem­blies that power them. Af­ter cracking the en­rich­ment code in the 1980s, Ar­gentina de­cided to forgo im­me­di­ate ex­pan­sion to in­dus­trial- scale en­rich­ment, opt­ing to con­cen­trate re­sources on de­vel­op­ing in­tel­lec­tual property around re­search re­ac­tors and fuel de­sign, Mr Grossi says. “The strat­egy paid off and turned Ar­gentina into a cred­i­ble mid­dle­size ac­tor in the nu­clear mar­ket with a clear niche and a grow­ing ca­pac­ity,” says Mr Grossi, who also ne­go­ti­ated with Iran as a for­mer IAEA diplo­mat. Ar­gentina has sold, built and ser­viced re­ac­tors in Al­ge­ria, Aus­tralia, Egypt and Peru. Iran awarded Ar­gentina a con­tract to mod­ify its Tehran Re­search Re­ac­tor in 1987. Frank von Hip­pel, a Prince­ton Univer­sity physi­cist who has been ad­vis­ing US nu­clear pol­i­cy­mak­ers for three decades, says ne­go­tia­tors risk miss­ing an­other op­por­tu­nity with Iran if they do not start pay­ing at­ten­tion to his­tor­i­cal prece­dents. “Ura­nium en­rich­ment is a generic prob­lem, it’s not an Ira­nian prob­lem,” says Mr von Hip­pel. “It’s been recog­nised since 1946 as a dan­ger­ous tech­nol­ogy. The Iran is­sue is more about na­tional pride and not want­ing to get gouged on prices by the Rus­sians.” When pro­duc­tion be­gins at Ar­gentina’s Pil­caniyeu en­rich­ment fa­cil­ity, 60km out­side Bar­iloche, it will use the gaseous dif­fu­sion en­rich­ment tech­nol­ogy that had been ex­clu­sively used to man­u­fac­ture nu­clear weapons when it was built. That should not nec­es­sar­ily worry the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity, ac­cord­ing to Wil­liam Miller, the US diplo­mat ap­pointed by the US pres­i­dent Jimmy Carter who was set to be­come Amer­ica’s new am­bas­sador to Iran be­fore the 1979 Is­lamic Revo­lu­tion in­ter­vened. Just as Ar­gentina’s govern­ment tran­si­tioned from mil­i­tary to civil­ian rule, the na­ture of the Ira­nian regime has changed too, he says. “Iran has de­vel­oped from a rev­o­lu­tion­ary so­ci­ety into a sta­ble demo­cratic theoc­racy.” The sur­prise rev­e­la­tion of Ar­gentina’s en­rich­ment pro­gramme was one of his­tory’s most “star­tling and dis­may­ing fail­ures of in­tel­li­gence gath­er­ing”, ac­cord­ing to a re­port pub­lished by the US depart­ment en­ergy. The threat of po­ten­tial sim­i­lar in­tel­li­gence fail­ures in Iran is driv­ing con­cern among pol­icy mak­ers who want to pre­vent a se­cret Ira­nian break­out from its com­mit­ments and a race to nu­clear weapons. Amid the clam­our around the Ira­nian nu­clear pro­gramme, world pow­ers are learn­ing how to reg­u­late ad­ver­sar­ial en­try into the global en­rich­ment-ser­vices mar­ket, says Mr von Hip­pel, who was a sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy ad­viser to the US pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton. “We shouldn’t let this kind of op­por­tu­nity go to waste,” he says.

U.S., Iran press nu­clear talks

VI­ENNA (AP) — The top U.S. and Ira­nian diplo­mats searched Mon­day for a break­through in nu­clear talks, their ef­forts com­pli­cated by crises across the Mid­dle East and be­yond that have Wash­ing­ton and Tehran aligned in some places but of­ten op­posed. The state of U.S.-Ira­nian re­la­tions was adding a new wrin­kle to the long ne­go­ti­a­tion aimed at curb­ing the Is­lamic repub­lic’s ura­nium and plu­to­nium pro­grams. While the two sides are ar­guably fight­ing proxy wars in Is­rael, Gaza and Syria, they’re talk­ing co­op­er­a­tion in Iraq and Afghanistan. And, per­haps in a first, the nu­clear mat­ter is bat­tling for full at­ten­tion. U. S. Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry and Ira­nian For­eign Min­is­ter Mo­hammed Javad Zarif spoke for about two hours around mid­day Mon­day, the sec­ond day of talks in Vi­enna. They gath­ered again in the af­ter­noon, hop­ing to make progress be­fore Sun­day’s ini­tial dead­line for a com­pre­hen­sive nu­clear agree­ment. An ex­ten­sion of the dead­line is pos­si­ble, though there are op­po­nents of that idea on both sides. “We are in the mid­dle of talks about nu­clear pro­lif­er­a­tion and rein­ing in Iran’s pro­gram,” Kerry told U.S. Em­bassy staff in Vi­enna dur­ing a break in the con­ver­sa­tions. “It is a re­ally tough ne­go­ti­a­tion.” But other mat­ters were be­ing dis­cussed, too, in­clud­ing Afghanistan, where Kerry vis­ited be­fore Vi­enna to bro­ker a power- shar­ing agree­ment be­tween ri­val pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates and a full au­dit of their con­tested elec­tion. As the two diplo­mats sat down Sun­day, Zarif called Kerry’s Afghan me­di­a­tion “ex­tremely im­por­tant” for the Afghan people and echoed the need “to en­sure the na­tional unity of Afghanistan and pre­vent its breakup.” “We agree,” Kerry said. “And it’s good to be­gin with an agree­ment.” But even as the U.S. and Iran have re­cently found in­creas­ing ar­eas for co­op­er­a­tion, such as stem­ming a flow of Sunni ex­trem­ists into Iraq, they re­main di­a­met­ri­cally op­posed else­where. The U.S-Ira­nian re­gional di­vide was un­der­scored Mon­day as the Is­raeli mil­i­tary downed a drone launched by Gaza mil­i­tants — the first such un­manned air­craft en­coun­tered since the start of the Jewish state’s of­fen­sive last week.

Su­per­sti­tion: Nu­clear power vs. coal

Sup­pose that a gi­ant hy­dro dam had crum­bled un­der the im­pact of the big­gest earth­quake in a cen­tury and sent a wave of wa­ter rac­ing down some val­ley in north­ern Ja­pan. Imag­ine that whole vil­lages and towns had been swept away, and that ten thou­sand peo­ple were killed - an even worse death toll than that caused by the tsunami that hit the coastal towns. Would there be a great out­cry world­wide, de­mand­ing that reser­voirs be drained and hy­dro dams shut down? Of course not. Do you think we are su­per­sti­tious sav­ages? We are ed­u­cated, civ­i­lized peo­ple, and we un­der­stand the way that risk works. Okay, an­other thought ex­per­i­ment. Sup­pose that three big nu­clear power re­ac­tors were dam­aged in that same mon­ster earth­quake, lead­ing to con­cerns about a melt­down and a mas­sive re­lease of ra­di­a­tion - a new Ch­er­nobyl. Ev­ery­body within a 20-km (14-mile) ra­dius of the plant was evac­u­ated, but in the end there were only mi­nor leak­ages of ra­di­a­tion, and no­body was killed. Well, that was a pretty con­vinc­ing demon­stra­tion of the safety of nu­clear power, wasn’t it? Well, wasn’t it? You there in the loin­cloth, with the bone through your nose. Why are you look­ing so fright­ened? Is some­thing wrong? In Ger­many, tens of thou­sands of pro­test­ers demon­strated against nu­clear power last Satur­day, and Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel sus­pended her pol­icy of ex­tend­ing the life of the coun­try’s nu­clear power sta­tions un­til 2036. She con­ceded that, fol­low­ing events in Ja­pan, it was not pos­si­ble to “go back to busi­ness as usual,” mean­ing that she may re­turn to the orig­i­nal plan to close down all 17 of Ger­many’s nu­clear power plants by 2020. In Bri­tain, en­ergy sec­re­tary Chris Huhne took a more mea­sured ap­proach: “As Europe seeks to re­move car­bon based fu­els from its econ­omy, there is a long term de­bate about find­ing the right mix be­tween nu­clear en­ergy and en­ergy gen­er­ated from re­new­able sources.... The events of the last few days haven’t done the nu­clear in­dus­try any favours.” I wouldn’t in­vest in the promised new gen­er­a­tion of nu­clear power plants in Bri­tain ei­ther. And in the United States, Con­gress­men Henry Wax­man and Ed Markey (Demo­cratic), who co-spon­sored the 2009 cli­mate bill, called for hear­ings into the safety and pre­pared­ness of Amer­ica’s nu­clear plants, 23 of which have sim­i­lar de­signs to the stricken Fukushima Dai­ichi plant in Ja­pan. The al­leged “nu­clear re­nais­sance” of the past few years was al­ways a bit of a mi­rage so far as the West was con­cerned. China and In­dia have big plans for nu­clear en­ergy, with dozens of re­ac­tors un­der con­struc­tion and many more planned. In the United States, by con­trast, there was no re­al­is­tic ex­pec­ta­tion that more than four to six new re­ac­tors would be built in the next decade even be­fore the cur­rent ex­cite­ments. The ob­jec­tions to a wider use of nu­clear power in the United States are mostly ra­tio­nal. Safety wor­ries are a much smaller ob­sta­cle than con­cerns about cost and time: nu­clear plants are enor­mously ex­pen­sive, and they take the bet­ter part of a decade to li­cense and build. Huge cost over­runs are nor­mal, and gov­ern­ment aid, in the form of loan guar­an­tees and in­surance cov­er­age for cat­a­strophic ac­ci­dents, is al­most al­ways nec­es­sary. The cost of wind and so­lar power is steadily drop­ping, and the price of nat­u­ral gas, the least nox­ious fos­sil-fuel al­ter­na­tive to nu­clear power, has been in freefall. There is no need for a pub­lic de­bate in the United States on the de­sir­abil­ity of more nu­clear power: just let the mar­ket de­cide. In Europe, how­ever, there is a real de­bate, and the wrong side is win­ning it. The Euro­pean de­bate has fo­cused on shut­ting down ex­ist­ing nu­clear gen­er­at­ing ca­pac­ity, not in­stalling more of it. The Ger­man and Swedish gov­ern­ments may be forced by pub­lic opin­ion to re­vive the for­mer pol­icy of phas­ing out all their nu­clear power plants in the near fu­ture, even though that means post­pon­ing the shut-down of highly pol­lut­ing coal-fired power plants. Other Euro­pean gov­ern­ments face sim­i­lar pres­sures. It’s a bad bar­gain. Hun­dreds of min­ers die ev­ery year dig­ging the coal out of the ground, and hun­dreds of thou­sands of other peo­ple die an­nu­ally from re­s­pi­ra­tory dis­eases caused by the pol­lu­tion cre­ated by burn­ing it. In the long run, hun­dreds of mil­lions may die from the global warm­ing that is driven in large part by green­house emis­sions from coal-fired power plants. Yet peo­ple worry more about nu­clear power. It’s the same sort of mis­taken as­sess­ment of risk that caused mil­lions of Amer­i­cans to drive long dis­tances in­stead of fly­ing in the months just af­ter 9/11. There were sev­eral thou­sand ex­cess road deaths, while no­body died in the air­planes that the late lamented had avoided as too dan­ger­ous. Risks should be as­sessed ra­tio­nally, not emo­tion­ally. And here’s the funny thing. So long as the prob­lems at Fukushima Dai­ichi do not kill large num­bers of peo­ple, the Ja­panese will not turn against nu­clear power, which cur­rently pro­vides over 30 per­cent of their elec­tric­ity and is sched­uled to ex­pand to 40 per­cent. Their is­lands get hit by more big earth­quakes than any­where else on Earth, and the ty­phoons roar in reg­u­larly off the Pa­cific. They un­der­stand about risk.

Nu­clear power not the bo­gey man it’s made out to be

NU­CLEAR power has been in the news lately, par­tic­u­larly the fact that the govern­ment has de­cided to com­mis­sion an ex­tra 9 600MW of nu­clear power. South Africa now has the only nu­clear power sta­tion in Africa, Koe­berg near Cape Town. It is 2 000MW in out­put so the new 9 600MW will rep­re­sent three new power sta­tions, all larger than Koe­berg. This is a big un­der­tak­ing. Why was Koe­berg built near Cape Town? Most of South Africa’s elec­tric­ity is pro­duced from coal but all the coal is in the far north­east of the coun­try in Mpumalanga and north­ern KwaZulu-Natal. The dis­tance from the coal­fields to Cape Town is the same as from Rome to Lon­don. Koe­berg pro­duces about half the power for the Western Cape, with the rest com­ing from the coal­fields. This is a dan­ger­ous sit­u­a­tion. Imag­ine if Lon­don had to draw half its elec­tric­ity from Rome. Imag­ine what could go wrong over that dis­tance and plunge half of Lon­don into dark­ness. So we ur­gently need to build largescale nu­clear power in the Cape to pro­duce elec­tric­ity for the south­ern half of South Africa. Some­body is im­me­di­ately go­ing to say; what about wind and so­lar power? Let us get that out of the way now. Wind and so­lar is tiny by com­par­i­son, only a few per­cent by in­stalled ca­pac­ity. But watch it! Don’t rely on the “in­stalled ca­pac­ity” fig­ure be­cause wind and so­lar are in­ter­mit­tent. You only get wind power when the wind blows and only get so­lar for part of the day­light hours. So if some­body says there is 100MW of in­stalled wind power it means that at times there is very lit­tle or zero if the wind isn’t blow­ing. You can’t run an elec­tric train from Cape Town to Jo­han­nes­burg on wind power, end of story. So we need re­li­able power like nu­clear. “Oh dear,” some­one will say, “Nu­clear is so dan­ger­ous, look at Fukushima.” So what ac­tu­ally hap­pened at Fukushima? Well, af­ter all the hype and drama started to clear it has turned out that at Fukushima no­body was killed by nu­clear ra­di­a­tion, no­body was even in­jured and no property dam­aged by ra­di­a­tion. Zero, noth­ing. So a very old nu­clear power sta­tion of an out­dated de­sign was hit by the big­gest earthquake and tsunami on record and the re­sult was that the nu­clear re­ac­tors pro­duced no harm. So the real les­son of Fukushima is that nu­clear power is safe. In his state of the na­tion ad­dress Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma said the coun­try was go­ing to spend R1 tril­lion on in­fra­struc­ture de­vel­op­ment like road, rail and har­bours. People ap­plauded. Good! But then news­pa­pers re­port that the nu­clear power pro­gramme may cost R1 tril­lion and people groan and say, “Oh no.” Why? Note that in 2013 the di­rec­tor gen­eral of en­ergy, Nelisiwe Magubane, said South Africa was aim­ing for 50% lo­cal­i­sa­tion on the first nu­clear power plant. That means hun­dreds of bil­lions spent in South Africa. That is ex­cel­lent news for a wide va­ri­ety of com­pa­nies, large and small. That means jobs for many people rang­ing from qual­i­fied en­gi­neers to ar­ti­sans of all types. We need welders, tool­mak­ers, elec­tri­cians and we need good ones. Re­cently I did a weld­ing in­spec­tion at a com­pany in Jo­han­nes­burg and I saw lo­cal welders from Jo­han­nes­burg do­ing some of the best weld­ing in the world. They were ex­cel­lent. Small com­pa­nies can be­come part of the nu­clear sup­ply chain. A small com­pany needs only to make, say, three or four types of valves and they can be in busi­ness as long as they make them re­ally well to nu­clear grade stan­dard. You don’t have to be one of the big gi­ants to en­ter the nu­clear fab­ri­ca­tion world. South Africa is one of the old­est nu­clear coun­tries in the world; we have been in nu­clear for more than 60 years. We have the knowl­edge and ex­pe­ri­ence. Should the pub­lic be wor­ried about nu­clear ra­di­a­tion, or nu­clear waste? The an­swer is no. We have the pro­fes­sion­als who know how to han­dle all of this. Of course, ra­di­a­tion is po­ten­tially dan­ger­ous but so is dy­na­mite. If it is han­dled pro­fes­sion­ally then there is no cause for con­cern. By the way, Koe­berg was de­signed and built to with­stand a big­ger earthquake and tsunami than Fukushima, and there is no earthquake or tsunami threat in the Cape. What about nu­clear waste? South Africa has one of the old­est nu­clear waste repos­i­to­ries in the world at Vaalputs in the North­ern Cape, run very pro­fes­sion­ally by people from the area. The fa­cil­ity is nearly 30 years old. South Africa has very lit­tle re­serve mar­gin of elec­tric­ity pro­duc­tion right now. We are run­ning far too close to ca­pac­ity for com­fort. We are push­ing at the edge of mass black­outs vir­tu­ally ev­ery day. Lack of elec­tric­ity is hold­ing back our na­tional eco­nomic growth. This is a cause for con­cern. Poor eco­nomic growth is bad for ev­ery­body. We need new, big baseload power and we need it as soon as pos­si­ble. We will be need­ing new, big baseload power for the next 20 to 30 years, so we are not talk­ing of a short­term quick fix. We need to urge the govern­ment to move now on the next steps for nu­clear power. We need to give in­dus­try the con­fi­dence of real plan­ning dates so that we can move with op­ti­mum speed on the ex­cit­ing nu­clear power path. We can do it. We just need South African con­fi­dence and self re­spect right now.

Key ‘miss­ing’ de­bate over fu­ture of nu­clear en­ergy is waste stor­age

Across the world, the con­tentious de­bate over the fu­ture of nu­clear power con­tin­ues apace. In East Asia, for in­stance, it emerged ear­lier this month that a nu­clear plant in Tai­wan may have been leak­ing ra­dioac­tive wa­ter for three years. Mean­while, Ja­pan is still strug­gling to con­tain ra­dioac­tive wa­ter from Fukushima, and in South Korea pros­e­cu­tors are con­duct­ing a huge in­ves­ti­ga­tion into forged nu­clear safety cer­tifi­cates. The old con­tro­ver­sies over nu­clear re­ac­tors – their dangers, ben­e­fits and costs – re­main at the fore. But as politi­cians, en­ergy ex­perts and the gen­eral pub­lic weigh the pros and cons, one key el­e­ment in har­ness­ing en­ergy from the atom is be­ing ne­glected. That is, the link be­tween the dif­fer­ent meth­ods of pro­duc­ing nu­clear power and the na­ture – and longevity – of the ra­dioac­tive waste that each method leaves be­hind. This in turn raises the is­sue of in­ter­gen­er­a­tional jus­tice: the tech­ni­cal choices we make to­day will de­ter­mine the ex­tent of the bur­den hu­man­ity will face in con­tain­ing con­tam­i­nated byprod­ucts that can re­main ra­dioac­tive for thou­sands of years. While an in­creas­ing num­ber of states are be­ing swayed by the fact that nu­clear power can en­hance do­mes­tic en­ergy se­cu­rity, pro­duce large amounts of en­ergy, and emit very low green­house gas byprod­ucts, crit­ics none­the­less re­main vo­cif­er­ous. They cite the risk of re­ac­tor ac­ci­dents, the dangers of trans­port­ing nu­clear fuel and fears of pro­lif­er­a­tion, and the vex­ing prob­lem of how to deal with the long-lived nu­clear waste. How­ever, what is most strik­ing is the “miss­ing nu­clear de­bate.” Lit­tle is said about the ma­jor dis­tinc­tions be­tween the var­i­ous pro­duc­tion meth­ods, or nu­clear fuel cy­cles. Rather than re­duc­ing nu­clear power to a sim­ple yes/no, good/bad di­chotomy, we need to fo­cus first on the ad­van­tages and disad­van­tages of each nu­clear en­ergy pro­duc­tion method, in­clud­ing the bur­dens and ben­e­fits they pose now and in gen­er­a­tions to come. ONE OF the key dif­fer­en­ti­at­ing fea­tures be­tween the var­i­ous pro­duc­tion meth­ods is the na­ture of waste that is pro­duced af­ter ir­ra­di­at­ing fuel in a re­ac­tor. In the so-called open fuel cy­cle (com­mon in coun­tries in­clud­ing the United States and Swe­den) spent fuel is gen­er­ally dis­posed of as waste that will re­main ra­dioac­tive for 200,000 years. In the al­ter­na­tive, known as the closed fuel cy­cle, spent fuel is re­pro­cessed in or­der to ex­tract the re­de­ploy­able ura­nium and plu­to­nium, which are then re-en­tered into the fuel cy­cle. In the closed fuel cy­cle, the life­time of ra­dioac­tive waste is re­duced to about 10,000 years. Ap­proached from the frame­work of in­ter­gen­er­a­tional jus­tice, there is a strong case for ar­gu­ing that peo­ple liv­ing to­day should deal with the bur­dens of nu­clear power be­cause we en­joy the lion’s share of ben­e­fits. Thus, from a moral point of view, if we want to keep de­vel­op­ing nu­clear power, the closed fuel cy­cle is prefer­able be­cause it re­duces ra­dioac­tive life­time of waste and the bur­dens on fu­ture gen­er­a­tions. How­ever, the closed cy­cle brings about an­other in­ter­gen­er­a­tional dilemma. In or­der to re­duce con­cern for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions, we will cre­ate short-term safety, se­cu­rity and eco­nomic bur­dens for peo­ple cur­rently alive. Nu­clear re­pro­cess­ing it­self is a com­plex and costly chem­i­cal process. More im­por­tantly, the plu­to­nium sep­a­rated dur­ing re­pro­cess­ing in the closed cy­cle method raises the risk of pro­lif­er­a­tion of nu­clear weapons. A nu­clear weapon with the yield of the Na­gasaki bomb could be man­u­fac­tured with a cou­ple of kilo­grams of plu­to­nium. Even though civil­ian plu­to­nium em­a­nat­ing from en­ergy re­ac­tors is not weapon­grade and di­rectly us­able for a bomb, it still has some de­struc­tive pow­ers. We need to en­sure that pro­mot­ing the closed cy­cle method does not spread even more nu­clear weapons. While new mem­bers of the IAEA have the right to pur­sue the closed fuel cy­cle for civil pur­poses, pro­mot­ing this cy­cle poses se­ri­ous in­ter­na­tional chal­lenges. A no­table ex­am­ple here is Iran, which in­sists on re­pro­cess­ing spent fuel of its sin­gle re­ac­tor in Bushehr. Se­ri­ous tech­no­log­i­cal and pol­icy at­tempts are be­ing made to limit the dangers of pro­lif­er­a­tion in re­pro­cess­ing. But there is an even bet­ter prospect for eas­ing the fu­ture bur­den: the de­vel­op­ment of so­called fast re­ac­tors ca­pa­ble of re­duc­ing the life­time of ra­dioac­tive waste to a cou­ple of hun­dred years. This in­volves the de­vel­op­ment of ex­tended closed fuel cy­cles based on mul­ti­ple re­cy­cling and new re­ac­tor tech­nol­ogy. This method, re­ferred to as Par­ti­tion­ing and Trans­mu­ta­tion (P&T) has been sci­en­tif­i­cally proven but may re­quire decades of de­vel­op­ment be­fore it can be prac­ti­cally ap­plied. None­the­less, P&T rep­re­sents a po­ten­tial break­through that could gen­uinely trans­form the de­bate. Sev­eral coun­tries that use nu­clear power on a large scale, in­clud­ing China, have de­cided to build more re­ac­tors. More­over, smaller mem­bers of the nu­clear en­ergy club with long­stand­ing reser­va­tions over fu­ture ex­pan­sion, such as Switzer­land, are now re-eval­u­at­ing their stance. Mean­while, there is a grow­ing push else­where in the world to­ward the adop­tion of nu­clear en­ergy. The IAEA es­ti­mates that around 50 coun­tries will have nu­clear re­ac­tors by 2030 – up from 29 to­day. If th­ese pro­jec­tions are borne out, the 432 nu­clear re­ac­tors cur­rently op­er­a­ble around the world will be joined by more than 500 oth­ers within the next few decades. This trend doesn’t make the de­bate about nu­clear any less con­tentious. The po­lar­iza­tion of the de­bate il­lus­trates why the de­vel­op­ment of new fuel cy­cles like P&T tech­nol­ogy should move to the fore of nu­clear en­ergy pol­icy con­sid­er­a­tions, along­side greater dis­cus­sion of the pros and cons of the open fuel and closed fuel cy­cle mod­els. The de­bate needs to be­come more en­light­ened and inclusive of fu­ture tech­no­log­i­cal prospects – and more re­flec­tive of the quest for in­ter­gen­er­a­tional jus­tice. It is only on those terms that we can com­pare nu­clear with other en­er­gies, such as coal, which can help us an­swer the thorny ques­tion of whether nu­clear power has a role to play in the fu­ture en­ergy mix and com­bat­ing cli­mate change. The writer is an as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor of phi­los­o­phy at the Delft Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy who con­cen­trates on is­sues of ethics and nu­clear power.

An open, hon­est nu­clear de­bate

The con­sul­ta­tion process launched by the Al­berta gov­ern­ment to de­ter­mine if a nu­clear power plant should be built in the Peace River area ap­pears de­signed to dampen any op­po­si­tion to the plan. The Al­berta nu­clear con­sul­ta­tion sur­vey is clev­erly for­mu­lated to in­tim­i­date all those with­out a sci­en­tific back­ground, for ex­am­ple, ask­ing the re­spon­ders if they can ex­plain the de­tails of Al­berta’s elec­tric­ity sys­tem or nu­clear en­ergy to oth­ers. The re­spon­der is asked to af­firm whether or not: “I was very fa­mil­iar with the his­tory of nu­clear use in Canada.” In other words, if you don’t have a tech­ni­cal back­ground, is your opin­ion worth much? Why­bother to pro­ceed if you’re not an ex­pert? It is not so much the tech­ni­cal fea­si­bil­ity of bring­ing nu­clear power to Al­berta that needs to be ex­am­ined and com­mented upon, but the po­lit­i­cal, eco­nomic and eth­i­cal wis­dom of such a move. Down­play­ing the neg­a­tives The re­port of the nu­clear power ex­pert panel and the gov­ern­ment’s sub­se­quent work­book down­play the risk of nu­clear ac­ci­dents, the stag­ger­ing costs to taxpayers of nu­clear power, the link be­tween nu­clear power and nu­clear weapons, and the im­mense new po­ten­tial of al­ter­nate sources of en­ergy. These are the ques­tions that need open de­bate at public fo­rums around the prov­ince. The in­au­gu­ra­tion of a nu­clear re­ac­tor would pro­foundly af­fect the lives of Al­ber­tans over the next 50 years. The peace­ful use of nu­clear en­ergy calls for great ef­forts to pro­tect both peo­ple and the en­vi­ron­ment and to an­swer all le­git­i­mate ques­tions about the future of the planet. The de­bate should not be lim­ited to stake­holder groups out of the me­dia spot­light, nor sep­a­rated from the in­ter­na­tional de­bate al­ready tak­ing place on the future of nu­clear power. The prob­lems sur­round­ing nu­clear power lead me to the view that the Peace River re­ac­tor should not be pro­ceeded with. Is my opin­ion to be dis­counted if I check this box, “I have some un­der­stand­ing of Al­berta’s elec­tric­ity sys­tem but not sure of the de­tails”? Far more im­por­tant is a de­bate over the ethics and prac­ti­cal­ity of in­tro­duc­ing nu­clear power into Al­berta, en­abling the public to con­cen­trate on the best ways to pro­mote sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment that pro­tects the en­vi­ron­ment. Through my work for many years at the United Na­tions on nu­clear is­sues, I am very con­scious that the non-pro­lif­er­a­tion treaty of four decades ago granted coun­tries the right to de­velop nu­clear en­ergy for peace­ful pur­poses. But a new era of al­ter­na­tive en­ergy has opened up since then, and in- deed, world lead­ers at the UN’s 60th an­niver­sary sum­mit in 2005 agreed to “pro­mote in­no­va­tion, clean en­ergy and en­ergy ef­fi­ciency and con­ser­va­tion.” At the very least, it is now in­cum­bent on the pro­po­nents of nu­clear power to make their case in the light of grow­ing doubts about the wis­dom of fur­ther in­vest­ment in nu­clear power. A new study by the Pem­bina In­sti­tute found Al­berta could go from pro­duc­ing more than 70 per cent of its elec­tric­ity from coal to 70 per cent from clean en­ergy sources in just 20 years, based on ex­ist­ing tech­nol­ogy and rates of de­ploy­ment al­ready seen in other ju­ris­dic­tions. Us­ing proven renewable en­ergy tech­nolo­gies, com­bined with in­dus­trial co-gen­er­a­tion and a se­ri­ous com­mit­ment to im­proved con­sump- tion ef­fi­ciency, Al­berta could sat­isfy its grow­ing de­mand for power while dra­mat­i­cally re­duc­ing green­house gas emis­sions and other harm­ful en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pacts. The Pem­bina In­sti­tute says Al­berta does not need a sin­gle new coal­fired or nu­clear power plant, even if its de­mand for power dou­bles in the next 20 years. That is the kind of state­ment that now needs open public ex­am­i­na­tion. For ev­ery ar­gu­ment that nu­clear power is en­ter­ing a “re­nais­sance,” there is an­other that it is headed for ob­so­les­cence. Enough renewable en­ergy Sixty years after the dawn of the nu­clear age, the world is en­ter­ing a new age when renewable en­ergy shows signs of be­ing able to sur­pass both fos­sil fu­els and nu­clear power in meet­ing the en­ergy de­mands of a grow­ing pop­u­la­tion. A new In­ter­na­tional Renewable En­ergy Agency is al­ready tak­ing shape, and the num­ber of coun­tries in­vest­ing in renewable rather than nu­clear en­ergy is grow­ing. At this turn­ing point in his­tory, when un­sta­ble oil prices, global warm­ing, fi­nite resources, and nu­clear dangers all in­ter­sect, the world faces a cri­sis of how to meet ris­ing en- ergy needs in a sus­tain­able man­ner and with­out fur­ther de­spoil­ing the en­vi­ron­ment. Can’t or­di­nary peo­ple have a le­git­i­mate view on this? The pro­po­nents of nu­clear power claim that it is en­vi­ron­ment-friendly be­cause it pro­duces elec­tric­ity with al­most no green­house gas emis­sion. But op­po­nents af­firm that this is not true. Shouldn’t we also pub­licly de­bate the risks at­tached to nu­clear power: the link be­tween the nu­clear fuel cy­cle and nu­clear weapons pro­lif­er­a­tion, re­ac­tor ac­ci­dents (Chornobyl and Three Mile Is­land are ex­am­ples), and the fail­ure of sci­ence so far to de­vise an ac­cept­able means for the dis­posal of nu­clear waste. Though the risk of ac­ci­dents, earth­quakes or ter­ror­ist at­tacks on nu­clear re­ac­tors may ap­pear small, the con­se­quences of a mis­step are very large. The public needs to be in­formed about this and empowered to speak out with­out re­jec­tion by ex­perts, many of whom are hardly ob­jec­tive. The need for water A key eth­i­cal ques­tion need­ing ex­am­i­na­tion is the use of water. All nu­clear power plants must be sit­u­ated be­side a ma­jor sup­ply of cool­ing water. Al­ready, the oil­sands — the fastest grow­ing source of green­house gas emis­sions in Canada — re­quires up to two mil­lion bar­rels of water per day from the Athabasca River to pro­duce one mil­lion bar­rels of oil. Be­cause cli­mate change has al­ready be­gun to leave a dra­matic mark on the Cana­dian Rock­ies through re­ces­sion of the Al­berta Glacier, a re­ces­sion of vol­ume flows of water is oc­cur­ring. In short, the oil­sands are drain­ing the Athabasca River and con­tribut­ing to global warm­ing at the same time. Let us de­bate this point. In ad­di­tion, oil­sands tail­ings ponds are de­spoil­ing the en­vi­ron­ment, and the abo­rig­i­nal pop­u­la­tion of the area is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing de­clines in ecore­sources re­lated to the sup­ply of water in the Athabasca River. The le­git­i­mate re­quire­ments of abo­rig­i­nal peo­ples must be taken into con­sid­er­a­tion be­fore fur­ther de­vel­op­ment of the oil­sands pro­ceeds. This is one more rea­son to at least ques­tion the ethics of in­tro­duc­ing nu­clear power, which will speed up the ex­trac­tion of oil, with un­known con­se­quences to abo­rig­i­nal peo­ples. Nu­clear waste The is­sue of nu­clear waste must also be dealt with. Nu­clear power pro­duc­tion in Canada al­ready pro­duces ap­prox­i­mately 85,000 highly ra­dioac­tive waste fuel bun­dles each year, along with 500,000 tonnes or more of toxic and ra­dioac­tive mine tail­ings (wastes left after ura­nium ex­trac­tion). In fact, each stage of the nu­clear en­ergy pro­duc­tion process gen­er­ates large vol­umes of uniquely hard-toman­age wastes — wastes that in many cases will re­quire care for hun­dreds of thou­sands of years. Cur­rently, no ap­proved long-term plan for the man­age­ment of these wastes ex­ists in Canada. The public needs to be alerted to the his­tory of fail­ures in stor­age fa­cil­i­ties for ura­nium mine tail­ings in Canada and else­where. The prob­lems these waste streams can lead to, in­clud­ing se­vere con­tam­i­na­tion of sur­face water and ground­wa­ter with ra­dioac­tive and con­ven­tion­ally toxic pol­lu­tants need to be brought out into the open. Is it eth­i­cal to take the risk of in­tro­duc­ing nu­clear power into Al­berta at the very mo­ment when sci­ence has un­cov­ered ways to meet en­ergy needs with­out such risk? Let’s de­bate the ef­fi­cacy of nu­clear power with­out fear or in­tim­i­da­tion.

LA­BOR SAYS BEWDY NUKE

FED­ERAL La­bor MPs are call­ing for Aus­tralia to em­brace nu­clear power, leav­ing Ju­lia Gil­lard fac­ing an­other dam­ag­ing split in her Govern­ment. Ms Gil­lard is un­der pres­sure to put the di­vi­sive is­sue on next year’s ALP na­tional con­fer­ence agenda — with MPs claim­ing vot­ers care more about power bills than gay mar­riage. Fed­eral Re­sources Min­is­ter Martin Fer­gu­son last night said those ad­vo­cat­ing nu­clear power had as much right to have the is­sue de­bated at the show­case event as those back­ing changes to gay mar­riage laws. De­fy­ing La­bor’s of­fi­cial ban on nu­clear power, a num­ber of MPs have gone pub­lic in their sup­port for the low-car­bon en­ergy source. ‘‘ My view is that all forms of en­ergy sup­ply should be un­der ac­tive con­sid­er­a­tion,’’ for­mer front­bencher Mark Bishop said. Sen­a­tor Bishop said the ‘‘ Govern­ment should give more ac­tive con­sid­er­a­tion to putting nu­clear into the equa­tion of all forms of en­ergy sup­ply, par­tic­u­larly those that are sub­sidised’’. NSW Sen­a­tor Steve Hutchins also wants nu­clear power de­bated af­ter Ms Gil­lard this week ar­gued that a price on car­bon would be a high pri­or­ity for her Govern­ment. ‘‘ In my opin­ion it should be part of the [en­ergy] de­bate if we want to have a clean fu­ture,’’ he said. ‘‘ I can­not see us re­turn­ing to liv­ing in the cave and burn­ing fallen tim­ber to keep us warm.’’ Pri­vately a num­ber of min­is­ters sup­port nu­clear power be­ing con­sid­ered along with coal, so­lar and other en­ergy sources as part of Aus­tralia’s fu­ture en­ergy mix. The nu­clear push will re­ceive a boost to­day when Mr Fer­gu­son re­leases a re­port by the Aus­tralian Academy of Tech­no­log­i­cal Sci­ences and En­gi­neer­ing. The study finds nu­clear power will be cheaper than tra­di­tional coal-fired power sta­tions and re­new­ables such as so­lar — once Aus­tralia in­tro­duces a car­bon tax. La­bor MP Chris Hayes said Aus­tralia would soon be­come the biggest ex­porter of ura­nium as he called for nu­clear to be in­cluded in the en­ergy de­bate. ‘‘ Why would we sim­ply re­ject it out of hand?’’ Mr Hayes said. Sen­a­tor Michael For­shaw said key re­gional play­ers were rapidly em­brac­ing nu­clear power. ‘‘ I am not one who says we should never, ever con­tem­plate the pos­si­bil­ity of nu­clear. It should be part of a broad de­bate about cleaner en­ergy,’’ he said. Sen­a­tor Hutchins wants the is­sue on the agenda for the ALP na­tional con­fer­ence. ‘‘ It is more im­por­tant for the coun­try’s fu­ture than gay mar­riage and it af­fects a lot more peo­ple,’’ he said. Mr Fer­gu­son said he be­lieved those ad­vo­cat­ing change should have the chance to state their case at La­bor’s show­case event. ‘‘ They have as much right to dis­cuss nu­clear at the 2011 con­fer­ence as other peo­ple have to de­bate the is­sue of gay and les­bian mar­riage,’’ he said. Green­peace Aus­tralia Pa­cific lashed out at the ALP over the is­sue last night. Spokesman Stephen Camp­bell said nu­clear power and its waste were a threat to peo­ple and the en­vi­ron­ment and ‘‘ not a so­lu­tion to cli­mate change’’. ‘‘ It’s also too ex­pen­sive and too un­safe. If the ALP went down that road, they would be cost­ing the tax­pay­ers bil­lions of dol­lars to es­tab­lish the technology, while re­new­able en­ergy is safer, cheaper and much eas­ier to build,’’ he said.

Nu­clear con­sen­sus

THE N-word was once taboo in de­bates on Aus­tralia’s fu­ture en­ergy sources. Nu­clear power was con­sid­ered risky, dan­ger­ous and re­spon­si­ble for the pro­duc­tion of ra­dioac­tive waste that re­mains toxic for thou­sands of years. Sud­denly, nu­clear has gone from fringe to main­stream as coun­tries around the world search for an an­swer to cli­mate change and dwin­dling coal sup­plies. Pub­lic opin­ion is shift­ing and this week came a push from within the La­bor Party for a se­ri­ous de­bate on atomic en­ergy in Aus­tralia. Far from risky, dan­ger­ous and toxic, pro­po­nents say nu­clear power is safe, clean and cost-ef­fi­cient. An Aus­tralian Academy of Tech­no­log­i­cal Sci­ences and En­gi­neer­ing re­port re­leased yes­ter­day ar­gued nu­clear power could be­come fi­nan­cially vi­able in Aus­tralia within 20 years. Re­port author Dr John Burgess said nu­clear power had two key ben­e­fits – con­tin­u­ous out­put and no car­bon emis­sions. ‘‘So com­pared to some of the other tech­nolo­gies it looks quite favourable fi­nan­cially at that time when the car­bon price is climb­ing up to $80 a tonne in about 2030,’’ he said. Pub­lic opin­ion also ap­pears to be shift­ing on the nu­clear de­bate. In 1979, McNair Gallup poll found 34 per cent of Aus­tralians sup­ported the con­struc­tion of nu­clear power sta­tions in Aus­tralia, while 56 per cent op­posed it. Last year, the same poll found about half (49 per cent) sup­port nu­clear power in Aus­tralia, while 43 per cent op­pose it. But Fed­eral Greens leader Bob Brown said yes­ter­day while a ma­jor­ity of Aus­tralians might sup­port nu­clear power, it was too ex­pen­sive and would be dam­ag­ing to the en­vi­ron­ment. ‘‘The opin­ion polls show there may be a ma­jor­ity of Aus­tralians who would back nu­clear power, but there’s a vast ma­jor­ity who don’t want it in their back­yard,’’ he said. In that cli­mate, a clutch of Right- fac­tion sen­a­tors want the mer­its of nu­clear power de­bated within the con­text of cli­mate change at the La­bor Party’s con­ven­tion next year. Their mo­tives are at least three­fold: First, there’s a strong el­e­ment of tit-for-tat in their call. The Right is an­gry at the re-emer­gence of the gay mar­riage de­bate which is now listed on the con­fer­ence agenda sched­uled for late next year. It views the is­sue as a bou­tique one af­fect­ing a mi­nor­ity, and one which leaves the ALP open to the charge it is in thrall to an in­ner-city Greens agenda. This in turn gives rise to their sec­ond mo­tive for rais­ing the nu­clear de­bate right now: to wedge the Greens po­lit­i­cally. La­bor MPs have long been in­censed by what many see as a gap­ing hole in green­pol­i­tics; the blindspot over nu­clear. Why, they ask, has the en­vi­ron­ment lobby been al­lowed to get away with sim­ply re­fus­ing to dis- cuss nu­clear power given the zeal with which it has lec­tured the rest of us about global warm­ing? Why, they won­der, is the sci­ence treated as in­fal­li­ble on global warm­ing but able to be read­ily ig­nored on the safety and ef­fi­ciency of nu­clear power? The third rea­son is the need for a gen­uine de­bate. Ms Gil­lard has nom­i­nated 2011 as the year of de­ci­sion and de­liv­ery on cli­mate pol­icy. Yet nu­clear ad­vo­cates point out their op­tion has not been S prop­erly con­sid­ered. EV­ERAL key peo­ple in the ALP in­clud­ing the Left’s (Re­sources and En­ergy Min­is­ter) Martin Fer­gu­son, sup­port nu­clear power. Still more ac­cept that there is merit in the de­bate. They point to the fact that Aus­tralia is a ma­jor sup­plier of ura­nium to other coun­tries and that SA’s Olympic Dam op­er­a­tion is the largest ura­nium mine in the world. If it is good enough to mine ura­nium and sell it to oth­ers, they ask, why is dis­cus­sion of us­ing it do­mes­ti­cally off lim­its? It is dif­fi­cult to say whether the de­bate over nu­clear will play a role in the Govern­ment’s de­ci­sion­mak­ing over a car­bon price next year. But there is no doubt the two things are re­lated po­lit­i­cally and eco­nom­i­cally. When then prime min­is­ter John Howard re-opened the ar­gu­ment dur­ing his last term, com­mis­sion­ing for­mer Tel­stra boss and nu­clear physi­cist Ziggy Switkowski to ex­am­ine the is­sue, he in­ad­ver­tently handed La­bor an elec­toral gift. Dr Switkowski con­cluded that nu­clear power could pro­vide Aus­tralia with up to a third of its baseload elec­tric­ity with 25 state-of-the-art nu­clear re­ac­tors by 2050. By def­i­ni­tion, be­cause such fa­cil­i­ties need to be lo­cated near wa­ter sup­plies and prox­i­mal to but not in ma­jor ur­ban cen­tres, this sug­gested a se­ries of re­ac­tors up and down the east­ern seaboard. In the sub­se­quent elec­tion, La­bor had a field day de­mand­ing that the Govern­ment stip­u­late where – in which elec­torates – any nu­clear re­ac­tors would be lo­cated. In key seats like Rich­mond in north­ern NSW, the is­sue guar­an­teed a La­bor vic­tory af­ter the party ran hard in lo­cal news­pa­pers and other me­dia putting the fright­en­ers on a un­sus­pect­ing vot­ers. The strat­egy worked a treat. But now in of­fice, ad­vo­cates of a ma­ture nu­clear en­ergy de­bate see a new op­por­tu­nity aris­ing from a sup­port­ive Op­po­si­tion and a Govern­ment that just may be in­clined to lis­ten to rea­son. The en­su­ing pol­icy ar­gu­ment will test Ms Gil­lard’s re­solve and stretch her com­mit­ment to al­low­ing open de­bate by her MPs. She has al­ready opined that a change in La­bor’s an­tinu­clear pol­icy is un­likely but she also knows there would be costs to her cred­i­bil­ity if she shuts the de­bate down. At present, sources say, if the ques­tion were asked of Right fac­tion mem­bers, there would prob­a­bly be a ma­jor­ity in favour of at the very least, an open de­bate. Many would pro­mote nu­clear as the an­swer to the cli­mate change puz­zle. But within the Left, Ms Gil­lard’s own base, the stance re­mains one of stead­fast op­po­si­tion. ‘‘The La­bor Party’s got a very clear pol­icy here, and it’s a re­ally long-stand­ing pol­icy of op­po­si­tion to nu­clear power,’’ Ms Gil­lard told 3AW yes­ter­day. ‘‘Now, we will have our na­tional con­fer­ence at the end of next year . . . I’d have to say any­body who’s ar­gu­ing to over­turn our long­stand­ing pol­icy is set­ting them­selves up for a pretty tough ar­gu­ment, but I’m not go­ing to be there say­ing to peo­ple ‘don’t come and put your view.’ We’re a party of ideas. It’s good to have de­bates, and we’ll have a few at na­tional con­fer­ence.’’ The words say yes to a de­bate but ev­ery­thing else sug­gests, as Mar­garet Thatcher once said, ‘‘the lady is not for turn­ing’’.

Ja­pan de­bates giv­ing up nu­clear en­ergy

Tokyo ( Reuters) Can Ja­pan af­ford to go nu­clear-pow­er­free? The coun­try’s atomic power in­dus­try and many big busi­ness clients say “ No”, ar­gu­ing the step would boost elec­tric­ity bills and pol­lu­tion and has­ten the hol­low­ing out of Ja­panese man­u­fac­tur­ing. But the Fukushima nu­clear disas­ter is gal­vanis­ing a coali­tion of safety-con­scious vot­ers and fu­ture-minded com­pa­nieswho in­creas­ingly be­lieve that Ja­pan can­not af­ford to stick with the sta­tus quo if it wants to be glob­ally com­pet­i­tive. “ Ja­pan has a span of about a year to as­sert it­self as a clear leader in clean en­ergy, stor­age bat­ter­ies, so­lar cells. They can com­pete, but they are no longer the only guys in the global game,” said Jes­per Koll, di­rec­tor of eq­ui­ties re­search at JPMor­gan in Tokyo. “ This is where gov­ern­ment pol­icy helps — it can cre­ate a do­mes­tic mar­ket that is cap­tive and rich and cre­ates jobs and puts Ja­pan on the map as a global leader.” Mis­trust To be sure, short-term eco­nomic pain is in store if util­i­ties, faced with deep pub­lic mis­trust af­ter the world’s worst ra­di­a­tion ac­ci­dent in 25 years, are un­able to restart re­ac­tors taken off-line for checks. “ We will have real pain for the next one to two years due to the holes opened up by the lack of nu­clear en­ergy,” said Martin Schulz, an econ­o­mist at Fu­jitsu Re­search In­sti­tute. “ But the pain is there be­cause of what was done in the past. The mo­ment you fo­cus on fu­ture op­por­tu­ni­ties, it’s not so painful any­more.” Even nu­clear power pro­po­nents ac­knowl­edge that their dream of sup­ply­ing Martin Schulz Econ­o­mist at Fu­jitsu Re­search In­sti­tute more than 50 per cent of elec­tric­ity from atomic en­ergy by 2030, up fromabout 30 per cent be­fore Fukushima, has been dimmed by the ra­di­a­tion disas­ter. More than 70 per cent of vot­ers in a Kyodo news agency sur­vey pub­lished on Sun­day sup­ported Prime Min­is­ter Naoto Kan’s call last month for a fu­ture free of de­pen­dence on nu­clear power. The vi­sion has sent shivers through the nexus of po­lit­i­cal, busi­ness and bu­reau­cratic in­ter­ests dubbed Ja­pan’s “ nu­clear vil­lage”, which has re­sponded with dire warn­ings. “ If we com­pletely aban­don nu­clear power gen­er­a­tion ... I think most in­dus­tries would lose com­pet­i­tive­ness and go out of Ja­pan,” Masakazu Toy­oda, chair­man of the quasi-gov­ern­ment In­sti­tute of En­ergy Eco­nom­ics, said. “ But 50 per cent might be too much. Twenty-five or 30 per cent might be di­gestible.” Kan has promised a blankslate re­view of the 2010 na­tional en­ergy plan and vowed to pro­mote re­new­able sources such as wind and power with a lawthat­would re­quire util­i­ties to buy elec­tric­ity from a wide range of sources through gen­er­ous feed-in-tar­iffs — sub­si­dies paid by end-users.

So­lar vs. nu­clear en­ergy de­bate

The de­bate about so­lar vs. nu­clear en­ergy is heat­ing up. All the pros and cons are be­ing brought up by those who claim to know what they are talk­ing about, and the man in the street sim­ply fol­lows what's be­ing told, lack­ing knowl­edge about and in­ter­est in the sub­ject. Their sole concern seems to be whether they will be able to watch tonight's foot­ball game. It's be­ing said that nu­clear en­ergy is safe, but Fukushima and Ch­er­nobyl showed a dif­fer­ent pic­ture. The fact that no­body has yet found a so­lu­tion to treat the waste pro­duced by a nu­clear plant makes it clear that this can­not be a clean process. So­lar en­ergy, on the other hand, still re­quires an enor­mous amount of space, and pro­duces no en­ergy in the dark. De­pend­ing on the need for en­ergy makes us vul­ner­a­ble, so choos­ing an en­ergy for the next cen­tury should also in­clude the ques­tion: Whom do I trust? Nu­clear and fos­sil en­ergy can­not be pro­duced on a small scale yet, since safety is­sues are there to con­sider and over­com­ing those drives the price up. So­lar and wind en­ergy can be pro­duced on a small scale mak­ing us free from the shack­les of gov­ern­ments and en­ergy com­pa­nies. If we are think­ing about re­new­able en­ergy sources, shouldn't we also think about re­new­able so­ci­eties? When we keep think­ing in terms of us against them, we will never make a step ahead, and will con­tinue to quar­rel over these items in the years ahead. Ev­ery­thing to ful­fill our needs is al­ready there. We only need to con­nect it, by trust­ing our fel­low world cit­i­zens. To me it seems that our in­creas­ing need for en­ergy goes hand in hand with our in­creas­ing greed and ma­te­ri­al­ism. I'm not say­ing that we should go back to liv­ing in caves and giv­ing up all we achieved, but some aware­ness that hap­pi­ness does not come from con­sump­tion might ease the prob­lem. What­ever choice is made, let it be clear that the ben­e­fit will be ours, and that the prob­lems to solve will be for our chil­dren.

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