One of the most read articles on this blog is ” 10 reasons to support nuclear power “, which I wrote in 2009 when the situation was very different. A lot happened since then that has made me reconsider my stance on nuclear, so here is a counter-point.
Safe and clean nuclear energy seems everyday further away as the horror story of the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan unfolds. Each passing year seems to bring its flow of bad news. As the New York Times notes : ” Problems at the plant seemed to take a sharp turn for the worse in July … Read more
While I am not advocating nuclear as much as I was doing a few years ago – the incident in Fukushima have shown how the technology can be dangerous – I am still believing that it is better than coal. (Sidenote : anything IS better than coal…)
According to a study quoted by Cleantechies, ” The use of nuclear power from 1971 to 2009 prevented more than 1.8 million premature deaths related to air pollution and 64 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions. “
Of course, there are huge safety concerns over nuclear and having it based on plutonium over thorium wasn’t the best idea Humankind had, but who knows what will happen.
In the wake of the tragic catastrophe and the nuclear incident that shook Japan in 2011, we have seen that the local government is willing to push renewable energy sources forward. Among them, solar energy and wind power.
This has led to the installation of 1,12 GW of solar PV capacity in only nine months (source). During this period over five gigawatts of clean energy capacity have been approved. This proves that the feed-in tariffs are a success.
Let’s just hope it won’t be the kind of success that will lead the government to step back (as it happened most unfortunately in France).
I have to say that I now have mixed feelings about nuclear. Since I wrote and published my 10 reasons to support nuclear – by far my most popular post on this blog – the catastrophe at Fukushima took place.
Now the main French utility – Electricité de France, aka EDF – announced that its EPR reactor in Flamanville, France, will cost a massive two billion euros more than previously forecasted, now totally 8.5 billion euros.
This is the question many are asking themselves as the Japanese government initially wanted to go nuclear free by 2040 but finally removed the specific deadline as the New York Times reported.
Nuclear plants can last decades provided they are operated and maintained carefully. Nuclear accounts for 18 percent of the electricity mix of the nation, renewables for 10 percent, the quasi totality from hydro power.
When Germany announced after the Fukushima disaster that it was willing to stop all its nuclear reactors, I published a piece on Cleantechies on how this was premature and dangerous for climate.
I guess I was quite right as this week the same Cleantechies published an article stating that coal consumption of the first European economy had increased by almost five percent in 2011.
The country’s main utilities have also built coal-fired plants. This takes place in 2012 in a country where the Greens are supposedly strong.
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.
Just as Grist is asking if Germany did the right move on nuclear – here is as a reminder my opinion piece on Cleantechies – several bad news for the industry of this energy source got my attention this week.
First and foremost, the reactor number 2 of Fukushima ” had probably experienced “spontaneous” fission “ according to an official quoted by the Agence France Presse.
Furthermore, it has been estimated that fully decommissioning Fukushima could take no less than 30 years. All this could have terrible consequences for the whole industry.
First, the good ones : To Reuters : ” Significant progress has been made in efforts to contain and stabilise the situation at Fukushima, the head of the United Nations atomic agency said on Friday.” And some bad : To the Wall Street Journal ” EDF announced that its EPR project in Flamanville, France (…) … Read more
Further to the Fukushima catastrophe in March, Japan has been decreasing in a massive way its electricity consumption. Indeed, only 17 nuclear reactors are bringing power to the grids out of the 54 existing ones. As the New York Times notes :
” Preliminary figures indicate that regions under conservation mandates have been able to meet reduction targets and even exceed them, providing a possible model of conservation’s potential when concerns about global warming are mounting. “
” In the Tokyo area, the government is pushing to cut electricity use by 15 percent between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m. on weekdays to prevent blackouts – and on Thursday, that target was met compared with last year.”
As the Guardian states : ” The amount of radiation released by the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant (…) could have been more than double that originally estimated by its operator, Japan’s nuclear safety agency has said. “
” The revelation has raised fears that the situation at the plant, where fuel in three reactors suffered meltdown, was more serious than government officials have acknowledged. “ When you think a situation can’t possibly get worse, it does.
Even if I still support the technology to prevent more catastrophic climate change, I believe the IAEA should really step up rules and regulations to ensure such a catastrophe never occurs again.