Monday, June 06, 2011

Energy Dark and Energy Light

kolozduy While I enjoy a little alarmism as much as the next person, an article at CBS really ups the ante in the Mad Max sweepstake:

The world faces an array of intractable energy problems that, if anything, have only worsened in recent weeks.  These problems are multiplying on either side of energy’s key geological divide: below ground, once-abundant reserves of easy-to-get “conventional” oil, natural gas, and coal are drying up; above ground, human miscalculation and geopolitics are limiting the production and availability of specific energy supplies.

Nuclear energy plays into the above ground scenario and author Michael Klare sees one country after another abandoning nuclear energy. After surveying Germany and Japan, he continues:

China also acted swiftly, announcing on March 16th that it would stop awarding permits for the construction of new reactors pending a review of safety procedures, though it did not rule out such investments altogether.  Other countries, including India and the United States, similarly undertook reviews of reactor safety procedures, putting ambitious nuclear plans at risk.

Frankly, acting swiftly seems a good course of action to quell public concerns and trying to learn lessons from Japan and applying them wise. Germany’s move to close its plants has gotten, at best, mixed reviews. And a few new plants planned before the accident, here and in places like Sweden and UAE, are moving right along.

But nuclear is only a part of Klare’s entropic narrative – in his view, the whole energy sphere is collapsing. (Oddly, he give renewable energy sources no space at all.)

I’m pretty sure few if any nuclear energy advocates have quite spun themselves into such marked pessimism. Klare is a professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College (in Massachusetts) and his books, with titles like Rising Powers, Shrinking Planet. and Blood and Oil, deal with the geopolitical implications of energy resource management, with (I think) an eye on Russia as a major villain in asserting its authority as an energy supplier.

In other words, he’s not a crank, and he avoids ideological freight that can weigh down such efforts. He has found his subject and he’s working it toward its logical if not inevitable conclusion. Worth a read, if only to quarrel with it.


Case in Point: This bit from Bernama, the Malaysian national news agency:

Asia, particularly, the Asia-Pacific remains the main arena for nuclear energy expansion in the world, with at least 40 ongoing projects, a nuclear conference was told Monday.

The rest is an altogether positive article about nuclear energy’s prospects, giving a lot of space to Hooman Peimani from the Energy Studies Institute at the National University of Singapore.

Dr Peimani said demand for nuclear energy remains on the uptrend despite the Fukushima nuclear plant crisis due to the earthquake and tsunami last March.

But according to him, the negative perception was due to exaggerated reporting by the media and prevailing poor knowledge about nuclear energy worldwide.

The fact is, he said, the world had seen six decades of power generation by nuclear energy starting in the 1950s, and hundreds of nuclear power reactors in operation globally since the 1950s.

In case you need a tonic for Klare, Dr. Peimani is in and will see you now.


And from Bulgaria:

Bulgaria plans to increase its reliance on nuclear energy by 2020 under a new proposal adopted by the government last week.

"Bulgaria will defend the right to maintain and increase its share of nuclear energy to European institutions," it said.

Currently, Bulgaria relies for 35 percent of its demand on energy from its sole nuclear plant of Kozloduy, while 55 percent comes from coal and gas power plants and 10 percent from renewable energy.

Under the proposal, the country will seek to extend the life of Kozloduy's only two 1,000-megawatt reactors past their 2017 and 2019 operation end dates.

It’d be nice if they built a new reactor or two, also, and get that percentage up a bit. Oh:

It also calls for the construction of two new reactors, either at the existing site or at a new plant in Belene on the Danube, east of Kozloduy.

Well, good.

We featured the Kolozduy plant not too long ago, so thought we’d share with you this lovely house in the town of Kolozduy. It’s on sale for 12 thousand Euro. More here – house prices there seem pretty low in general.

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