Skip to main content

Belgium Ponders Non-Nuclear Future

Though this article from Expatica is more than a year old, I'm sharing it with you because it presents the dillema that many European nations with aging nuclear reactors are facing: How to meet their Kyoto targets while phasing out nuclear energy and still keeping the lights on:
Currently, nuclear energy remains the number one source of electricity in Belgium, amounting to 70 percent of production. That will fall to 52 percent of domestic electricity production in five years time.

[...]

But due to the fact that electricity only amounts to 16 percent of total energy use, nuclear-powered electricity amounts to 9 percent of use in Belgium.

Oil and other fossil fuels account for 90 percent of Belgian energy use, while renewable energy — such as wind, solar, biofuels etc — accounts for 1 percent.

Renewable energy use will only increase to 3.7 percent — or at most 5 percent — in 25 years time, because it remains expensive to produce.

The Belgium government intends to abandon nuclear energy from 2015 and in the 10 years after that, the nation's seven nuclear reactors will need to shut down.
Am I the only person shaking my head as I read this? While I topped out at Introduction to Calculus as a high school senior, you don't need advanced math skills to figure out that if Belgium phases out all of its nuclear capacity that renewables alone can't fill the gap -- a leap the author doesn't seem to be able to make.

Even better, we also get the meaningless statistic that's being repeated over and over again: While nuclear provides (insert percentage of electricity) it only provides a small fraction of total energy use -- as if you could replace all of the nuclear generating capacity with fossil fired capacity with a snap of your fingers and without suffering any ill effects in electricity prices or air quality.

Instead of looking at Belgium's current energy mix as a blessing, and an incredible boon toward meeting their Kyoto targets, this piece was titled, "Belgium's Nuclear Addiction". Perhaps Belgium's real addiction is to faulty reasoning.

Technorati tags: , , , , , ,

Comments

Ruth Sponsler said…
Good commentary!

I've recently done a post that profiles a number of the European countries' electricity usage pictures using charts from the International Energy Agency. The differences in energy policies between the European countries are strikingly visible when you look at the charts.

Italy is in a bind now, paying high prices for imported oil and gas, because of its 1980's-era decision to close its nuclear facilities. Belgium, which is a quite industrialized country, needs to avoid going down that road.

Fortunately, polling results for Sweden look favorable to keeping its nuclear capacity (contrary to the 'official' government policy, inherited from the anti-nuclear flaky politics of the 1980s).
GRLCowan said…
Someone in a newsgroup was asking for comments on this about four years ago -- before the Ghislenghien disaster -- but never acknowledged my response.

--- G. R. L. Cowan, former hydrogen fan
How personal mobility gains nuclear cachet
Robert Schwartz said…
I hope that Belgium Shuts down its plants and dismantles them before the Jihadis take over.
Doug said…
It could be very instructive to have one European country after another attempt to defy the laws of physics by simultaneously abandoning nuclear power, reducing greenhouse emissions, and meeting rising demand. People don't quite understand that the greens to which they've ceded power on energy issues just say "no" to everything without having real solutions. How can you prove that conservation and renewables won't be enough, until you try it out. Once blackouts become routine perhaps the real debate will finally begin.
Brian Mays said…
Eh ... It's just one more reason the French have to make fun of the Belgians.

Popular posts from this blog

Making Clouds for a Living

Donell Banks works at Southern Nuclear’s Plant Vogtle units 3 and 4 as a shift supervisor in Operations, but is in the process of transitioning to his newly appointed role as the daily work controls manager. He has been in the nuclear energy industry for about 11 years.

I love what I do because I have the unique opportunity to help shape the direction and influence the culture for the future of nuclear power in the United States. Every single day presents a new challenge, but I wouldn't have it any other way. As a shift supervisor, I was primarily responsible for managing the development of procedures and programs to support operation of the first new nuclear units in the United States in more than 30 years. As the daily work controls manager, I will be responsible for oversight of the execution and scheduling of daily work to ensure organizational readiness to operate the new units.

I envision a nuclear energy industry that leverages the technology of today to improve efficiency…

Why America Needs the MOX Facility

If Isaiah had been a nuclear engineer, he’d have loved this project. And the Trump Administration should too, despite the proposal to eliminate it in the FY 2018 budget.

The project is a massive factory near Aiken, S.C., that will take plutonium from the government’s arsenal and turn it into fuel for civilian power reactors. The plutonium, made by the United States during the Cold War in a competition with the Soviet Union, is now surplus, and the United States and the Russian Federation jointly agreed to reduce their stocks, to reduce the chance of its use in weapons. Over two thousand construction workers, technicians and engineers are at work to enable the transformation.

Carrying Isaiah’s “swords into plowshares” vision into the nuclear field did not originate with plutonium. In 1993, the United States and Russia began a 20-year program to take weapons-grade uranium out of the Russian inventory, dilute it to levels appropriate for civilian power plants, and then use it to produce…

Nuclear: Energy for All Political Seasons

The electoral college will soon confirm a surprise election result, Donald Trump. However, in the electricity world, there are fewer surprises – physics and economics will continue to apply, and Republicans and Democrats are going to find a lot to like about nuclear energy over the next four years.

In a Trump administration, the carbon conversation is going to be less prominent. But the nuclear value proposition is still there. We bring steady jobs to rural areas, including in the Rust Belt, which put Donald Trump in office. Nuclear plants keep the surrounding communities vibrant.

We hold down electricity costs for the whole economy. We provide energy diversity, reducing the risk of disruption. We are a critical part of America’s industrial infrastructure, and the importance of infrastructure is something that President-Elect Trump has stressed.

One of our infrastructure challenges is natural gas pipelines, which have gotten more congested as extremely low gas prices have pulled m…