Thursday, February 05, 2009

A Ban Falls: Sweden Refocuses on Nuclear Energy

persona Sometimes, you focus your eyes one place while all the action is happening somewhere else. (Where would magicians be without this idea?) In our case, we’ve been patiently waiting for Germany to  overturn their ill-considered nuclear ban while over in Sweden, they’re actually, um, overturning their ill-considered ban:

Sweden is a leader on renewable energy but is struggling to develop alternative source like hydropower and wind to meet its growing energy demands. If parliament approves scrapping the [nuclear] ban, Sweden would join a growing list of countries rethinking nuclear power as a source of energy amid concerns over global warming and the reliability of energy suppliers such as Russia.

While we’re still a touch wobbly on the notion of nuclear energy being used as emergency rations to fend off Russia, Sweden’s issues seem based on a desire to keep their carbon emissions down. To us, that gives nuclear energy a firmer basis for moving forward as part of a broader energy policy. Sweden already has 10 operating plants and it was doubtless the prospect of retiring them (scheduled for next year) that gave the country second thoughts.

We’re not claiming a win against wind and hydro here – we doubt the Swedes ever thought it plausible to replace the 10 plants (supplying – get this – 46% of their electricity) with those technologies. But it does remind us that between European nations banning nuclear after TMI and/or Chernobyl and now, no one seems to have figured out what might happen next. If carbon reduction had not become an issue, would Sweden have opened coal-fired plants (with carbon capture and sequestration, of course)? We can’t know – but we can know that nuclear’s use as a fear engine is just about done. Let’s let the New York Times tell us where we are:

Last year, the British government invited companies to build new reactors on existing sites. France, which already generates more than 80 percent of its electricity through nuclear power, plans to expand its installations. Finland is building a reactor scheduled to open early in the next decade that is expected to become the most powerful reactor in commercial operation.

And let’s add Bulgaria and Slovakia, which we obsessed over last week, too. Okay, that’s it: back to Germany.

Is that the soul of nuclear energy coming into focus there? Why no, it’s Liv Ullmann in Ingmar Bergman’s Persona (1966). The boy reaching to her is Jorgen Lindstrom. If you want to see someone’s head explode, have a friend watch this movie and then ask them to  explain it to you. Boom!


Rod Adams said...

Don't forget Italy on your list of countries that are turning back to nuclear power after taking it out of their domestic energy mix after Chernobyl. Of course, they still depended a bit on French nuclear power coming over the border, but there were four operating reactors in Italy before Chernobyl and there are none today.

Arvid said...

We are not planning to retire a unit next year. Our plants will start running down in the 2020's and 2030's.

Further, those 46 % are 46 % of a very high per capita use, due to our economy being lainged to heavy industry.

Even though we only get 45 % of our power from nuclear and the French get 75 %, we still use more nuclear kWh's per capita.

Most in the world actually.