Skip to main content

Having a Future

pic_uk_LocationsEven after the Fukushima Daiichi facility achieves a cold shutdown and even if no one becomes sick or dies as a result of the accident – no one has so far – the impact to the nuclear energy industry on a global basis is not yet in full focus.

This lack of focus became, um, clearer after I read an interesting story in the New York Times that aims to address this issue – it’s here, called “After Fukushima, Does Nuclear Energy Have a Future?,” that does a reasonable job of surveying what different countries are doing with nuclear energy in the shadow of Fukushima. The story tilts toward what one might call the worst case scenario, but it’s not unrealistic and it points out inconvenient counter-facts, always a plus in my book.

Despite this relatively dismal outlook for nuclear energy, the London-based World Nuclear Association predicts a 30 percent increase in global nuclear generating capacity over the next decade; it foresees 79 more reactors online by 2020, for a total of 514, even taking Fukushima into account. And it sees a 66 percent increase by 2030, with capacity additions in China, India, South Korea and Russia outnumbering projected declines in Germany, France, the United Kingdom and the United States.

May not portend titanic growth but it doesn’t suggest a “dismal outlook,” either. Maybe writer Stephanie Cook even had to rush a bit to get the U.K. into her panoply of gloom before the country’s apparent decision to move forward – she does go for the worst case.

But really, so what? As the selection of stories included here indicates, things are happening in the nuclear sphere and people are saying encouraging things. Here in the U.S., there have been plentiful opportunities for big protests and hijacking public meetings, but there hasn’t really been any of that.

Now, I’ll gladly admit that some countries are trying to ensure nothing happens in the nuclear sphere and saying discouraging things – maybe I’ll round up a few of those later on – but this strikes me as the time where things will get said on all sides and energy policies will be formed and reformed accordingly. Nuclear energy may lose some ground but may well make up a lot of it – the point is, we don’t yet seem to be on the leaf of the calendar where that tale can be told fully and honestly.


Meanwhile, however, there are bits of the story to be told. Consider:

The U.K.'s chief nuclear inspector said Tuesday he saw no reason to curtail operations at existing nuclear power plants or change siting strategies for new reactors following the Fukushima disaster, effectively giving the green light for investments in new nuclear reactors to move forward.

And over to China:

Chinese regulators performed a four-month review of safety at all existing nuclear reactors and reactors under construction after the Fukushima meltdowns and declared them safe. Safety reviews continue at reactors where construction had not yet started at the time of the Fukushima accident.


Mr. Jiang [Kejun, a director of the Energy Research Institute at the National Development and Reform Commission], said in an interview that nuclear power construction targets for 2020 had not yet been set and might end up slightly lower than they would have been without the meltdowns in Fukushima. But he and other Chinese officials say that China’s rapidly rising electricity consumption makes nuclear power essential.


Also from the New York Times:

For instance, Germany’s decision to shut down its nuclear facilities would raise wholesale prices for utilities’ power by as much as €7, or close to $10, per megawatt hour in Germany, on average over the next decade, and by up to €5 per megawatt hour in France and the Netherlands, according to Fabien Roques, the director of European power for IHS Cera, a research and consulting firm.

“In some places we have a common market for energy, but we don’t have common procedures for generating energy that we can actually rely on,” said Mr. Roques. “You can see how this situation creates friction between countries.”

That’s a lot. It must be fantastically annoying for France, which will likely be shoveling some of its nuclear-generated electricity Germany’s way. Call it the unintended consequences of a high-minded stand.

The British nuclear fleet – from Centrica. Click for larger.


Shaf said…
Very interesting article! Here's another article that debates the merits of nuclear energy
SteveK9 said…
China really is the key I think. As they complete more and more plants at a faster rate, and as the benefits become real instead of hypothetical, the world is going to take notice. I think the response in many quarters will be 'I'd like some of that'.

In the US we really need Vogtle and V.C. Sumner to go well. That will change a lot of minds here.
Anonymous said…
In the longer term, the largest impact from Fukushima on nuclear expansion is likely to be the more rapid introduction of reactor designs with passive safety systems. Westinghouse is going to do very well, while Areva's order book for EPRs will remain thin.

Popular posts from this blog

A Billion Miles Under Nuclear Energy (Updated)

And the winner is…Cassini-Huygens, in triple overtime.

The spaceship conceived in 1982 and launched fifteen years later, will crash into Saturn on September 15, after a mission of 19 years and 355 days, powered by the audacity and technical prowess of scientists and engineers from 17 different countries, and 72 pounds of plutonium.

The mission was so successful that it was extended three times; it was intended to last only until 2008.

Since April, the ship has been continuing to orbit Saturn, swinging through the 1,500-mile gap between the planet and its rings, an area not previously explored. This is a good maneuver for a spaceship nearing the end of its mission, since colliding with a rock could end things early.

Cassini will dive a little deeper and plunge toward Saturn’s surface, where it will transmit data until it burns up in the planet’s atmosphere. The radio signal will arrive here early Friday morning, Eastern time. A NASA video explains.

In the years since Cassini has launc…

Sneak Peek

There's an invisible force powering and propelling our way of life.
It's all around us. You can't feel it. Smell it. Or taste it.
But it's there all the same. And if you look close enough, you can see all the amazing and wondrous things it does.
It not only powers our cities and towns.
And all the high-tech things we love.
It gives us the power to invent.
To explore.
To discover.
To create advanced technologies.
This invisible force creates jobs out of thin air.
It adds billions to our economy.
It's on even when we're not.
And stays on no matter what Mother Nature throws at it.
This invisible force takes us to the outer reaches of outer space.
And to the very depths of our oceans.
It brings us together. And it makes us better.
And most importantly, it has the power to do all this in our lifetime while barely leaving a trace.
Some people might say it's kind of unbelievable.
They wonder, what is this new power that does all these extraordinary things?

Missing the Point about Pennsylvania’s Nuclear Plants

A group that includes oil and gas companies in Pennsylvania released a study on Monday that argues that twenty years ago, planners underestimated the value of nuclear plants in the electricity market. According to the group, that means the state should now let the plants close.


The question confronting the state now isn’t what the companies that owned the reactors at the time of de-regulation got or didn’t get. It’s not a question of whether they were profitable in the '80s, '90s and '00s. It’s about now. Business works by looking at the present and making projections about the future.

Is losing the nuclear plants what’s best for the state going forward?

Pennsylvania needs clean air. It needs jobs. And it needs protection against over-reliance on a single fuel source.

What the reactors need is recognition of all the value they provide. The electricity market is depressed, and if electricity is treated as a simple commodity, with no regard for its benefit to clean air o…