A year after Fukushima, and the future of nuclear

A year after the catastrophic events in Fukushima, Japan is planning to be nuclear free by May 5. It is I believe a good opportunity to focus on the future of the industry. Opinions diverge on this critical issue.

Some believe nuclear is bound to disappear as it has a negative learning curve and that it is increasingly expensive compared to renewables. It is true the latter are becoming cheaper and cheaper.

However, some believe that nuclear will keep on expanding globally (1,2,3 ) as it stays one of the best solutions to provide gigawatts of electricity without greenhouse gases.

Where does the truth end and where does the humbug begins you might say ? I believe somewhere in the middle.

Countries like China and India are seeing record-breaking increase in energy consumption. They simply can’t stop on relying on coal and this even  if it is a huge problem both at the local and global levels. Renewables and efficiency are nice but won’t be able to close the gap between supply and demand there.

Sure, Japan, Germany and a couple of others – mostly in Europe – will ditch nuclear or change plans.

But that doesn’t mean we should stop investing in R&D. Thorium promises to be everything nuclear should be for example. The EPR generation – when it will be ready – promises to bring several improvements over current models.

One a personal point of view I find it harder to defend nuclear as it demands drastic measures and a high level of security and commitment. We have seen what minor compromises on security can lead to…

The huge boom of renewables are leading me to think that what seemed impossible – 100 percent renewables by 2050 – might be possible after all.

But this isn’t about 2050 as we have to find solutions before 2020… Time for energy efficiency ?

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