Wednesday, June 15, 2011

“30 percent higher than it would otherwise be”

logo One of the points that is made again and again about nuclear energy – on this blog, certainly, but really, in many places – is that if the world pulled away from nuclear energy, it would be very hard to achieve the carbon emission reduction goals that are wanted – needed – to stave off climate disaster. That’s not a slam at renewable energy, just a recognition of what’s currently possible and impossible, practical and not practical

Still, the starkness of this article startling:

A halving of a global nuclear power expansion after Japan's Fukushima disaster would increase global growth in carbon dioxide emissions by 30 percent through 2035, the IEA said on Wednesday.

Although the International Energy Agency has a dog in the race, it’s not the one you think. It was created after the seventies oil crisis (If you’re of an age, you may remember lining up your car - on certain days of the week – to get your rationed gasoline) to act as a stopgap if the petroleum supply is again interrupted. It still has that role, but has also taken on board issues of international energy development.

"(Growth in) CO2 emissions from electricity generation between now and 2035 would be about 30 percent higher than it would otherwise be." That was equivalent to almost an extra 500 million tonnes of CO2 emissions annually by 2035, he [IEA chief economist Fatih Birol] added.

CO2 emissions rose above 30 billion tons last year, a new record and just short of the amount that Birol estimated was consistent with the world's new warming target.

You can read the rest for yourself. There are two points to keep in mind before getting thoroughly depressed by the article (which you will): One, as Doris Day once sang, the future’s not ours to see. People predict things all the time based on the band of evidence they consider relevant, but there are many, many such bands and they all of them make the future together. Two, the world has not declared that fifty percent of nuclear energy will go away. In fact, the likelihood of it becoming more ubiquitous is pretty good.

And one of the reasons this is so, no doubt, is the grim forecasts of groups like the IEA. We’re not the only ones who can read, after all. But, all told, I doubt the issue of carbon emission reduction is even determinative in countries committing to more nuclear energy – the growing need for a lot more electricity is closer, the desire for developing countries to modernize while not producing emissions closer even.

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News is of a mixed nature, but not bad. There’s this:

China's nuclear safety regulators said that the country's all operating nuclear reactors are safe and sound, following a two-month inspection after the disaster at Japan's earthquake-stricken Fukushima Daiich nuclear power plant in March.

Li Ganjie, Vice Minister of Environment and director of China's Nuclear Energy Safety Administration, said in a statement posted on the ministry's website Wednesday that inspections of all 13 working reactors have been completed, and found no problems.

Not that there would be any particularly glaring problems. But this is what China has really needed:

The country originally plans to have up to 100 reactors in operation by 2020, but Beijing has suspended issuing permits for new plants until a national nuclear safety regime is phased in.

And that seems just right.

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And this:

The UAE’s nuclear regulator, the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR), has said that there could be changes to the design and location of the country’s proposed nuclear reactors to ensure safety, following Japan’s nuclear disaster.

Again, seems judicious enough.

“Everything is on track. We asked Emirates Nuclear Energy Corp (ENEC) and its Korean partners to look at the design and siting in the light of the Fukushima accident and see what can be learned from that,” John Loy, Director of Radiation and Safety Department at FANR, told reporters at a briefing on Wednesday.

He added that changes would not affect the project’s timeline.

The UAE said it expects to start its first nuclear power plant in 2017, and hopes nuclear energy to eventually supply 25 per cent of its power.

A variation of trust but verify. I expect many actions regarding nuclear energy will take that approach.

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