Skip to main content

2012: The Year After the Year

2013
2012 may fade away and 2013 arrive with undo chipperness, but It’s all a continuum. Last year’s narratives will continue into the new year, a few cameo players from 2012 will gain additional prominence in 2013 – I’m thinking small reactors here – and, to paraphrase the tagline of an old horror comic, always expect the unexpected.

So let’s not fill up a top ten list – that might be the expected thing to do on December 31; instead, let’s see if we can find some recent quotes that summarize (some of) the themes of the last year even if that is not exactly their purpose.
Take this, for example, from the Wall Street Journal:
But phasing out nuclear power, which helps meet nearly 75% of France's electricity needs and about 27% across the EU, could deprive the continent of a key source of energy and jobs, making it more dependent on fossil-fuel imports.
Higher fuel bills could also hurt European economies, economists warned. And closing nuclear reactors—which emit little to no greenhouse gas—could jeopardize the EU's efforts to address concerns about global warming.
We’ve written about this a lot in 2012, because the subject raises a lot of prickly questions. Countries should have a right to leave nuclear energy if they want to – no energy source is sacrosanct – but it has had and will continue to have consequences, most of them unintended. In Germany, the change is so precipitous that the transition promises to be incredibly expensive at best and truly terrible for the people at worst. And it’s an energy policy that solves no particular problem.

The Journal story is worth reading in full, though its focus on countries closing nuclear plants tells only part of the story, as we’ll see.
---
There’s a flip side to leaving nuclear energy, as indicated in this story in Commodities Today, and it also provided a theme for 2012 (I guess uranium is the commodity, but the story does not directly refer to it):
The number of nuclear new build projects, despite Fukushima, is still higher now than across the last two decades – although Asia is leading in numbers, the US has approved its first new build since 1970. France, Finland, the United Kingdom and Sweden have all reaffirmed their commitment to nuclear power. In Central and Eastern Europe, Poland, Romania, and the Czech Republic are also planning to push ahead with new units, following increased safety assessments.
I just saw a story about the Bulgarians holding a referendum to decide whether to build a second nuclear facility – we’ll see how that turns out. The United States has four new reactors (in Georgia and South Carolina) under construction and a fifth (in Alabama Tennessee) being revived and completed.

So nuclear energy is moving forward despite some handwringing – in the United States, in parts of Asia and Eastern Europe, perhaps even Bulgaria.

Naturally, there is a reason to celebrate this continuing development. 2012 represents the year following the year of the Fukushima Daiichi accident. It’s been a period for learning lessons from the accident and moving forward.

The industry unveiled FLEX early in 2012, its response to the accident that ensures that no nuclear plant will ever be an island in a sea of adversity. FLEX directs the facilities to stage new emergency equipment at each plant and it sets up regional centers to hold larger safety items that can be used by any facility.

Still, what about Fukushima Daiichi? Let’s be clear about the accident and its impact. The earthquake and tsunami that precipitated the accident killed almost 16,000 people. The accident killed no one (there were some industrial fatalities). About 340,000 people were put out of their homes, some by the disaster and some by the accident.

The lack of fatalities and the successful planning to keep people clear of radiation doesn’t excuse the accident at all – and cannot be used as exculpatory of it - but the truth of the matter is that the earthquake and tsunami created human devastation while the accident, unwelcome though it was, did not. That point sometimes gets overlooked or elided.

But the impact of the accident has been, as it should be, enormous. There’s still more to learn from the accident, which has already been and continues to be studied by every conceivable Japanese, American and international organization with an interest. There are still lessons to be learned, but a lot has been learned and even implemented – with IAEA help around the world and NRC and industry directives here.

This post-Fukushima work has been transparent enough that people can follow what’s going on and understand the implications for themselves and their families. In this country (and others, such as Great Britain), the result has been very positive. Nuclear energy is seen as safe by a majority of respondents and most people favor further expansion. Gallup puts public approval at about 57 percent, exactly the same as before the accident.

More about 2012 on Wednesday. Maybe we’ll know the outcome of that election in Bulgaria by then, too.

Correx: Thanks to our commenter for pointing out I meant Tennessee for the fifth reactor. You say Watts Bar, I say Bellefonte. Let's call the whole thing off (kidding - let's build both Watts Bar and Bellefonte. )

Comments

Anonymous said…
"The United States has four new reactors (in Georgia and South Carolina) under construction and a fifth (in Alabama) being revived and completed."

For the fifth, I do believe you mean Watts Bar in Tennessee.

Popular posts from this blog

A Design Team Pictures the Future of Nuclear Energy

For more than 100 years, the shape and location of human settlements has been defined in large part by energy and water. Cities grew up near natural resources like hydropower, and near water for agricultural, industrial and household use.

So what would the world look like with a new generation of small nuclear reactors that could provide abundant, clean energy for electricity, water pumping and desalination and industrial processes?

Hard to say with precision, but Third Way, the non-partisan think tank, asked the design team at the Washington, D.C. office of Gensler & Associates, an architecture and interior design firm that specializes in sustainable projects like a complex that houses the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys. The talented designers saw a blooming desert and a cozy arctic village, an old urban mill re-purposed as an energy producer, a data center that integrates solar panels on its sprawling flat roofs, a naval base and a humming transit hub.

In the converted mill, high temperat…

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?

Seeing the Light on Nuclear Energy

If you think that there is plenty of electricity, that the air is clean enough and that nuclear power is a just one among many options for meeting human needs, then you are probably over-focused on the United States or Western Europe. Even then, you’d be wrong.

That’s the idea at the heart of a new book, “Seeing the Light: The Case for Nuclear Power in the 21st Century,” by Scott L. Montgomery, a geoscientist and energy expert, and Thomas Graham Jr., a retired ambassador and arms control expert.


Billions of people live in energy poverty, they write, and even those who don’t, those who live in places where there is always an electric outlet or a light switch handy, we need to unmake the last 200 years of energy history, and move to non-carbon sources. Energy is integral to our lives but the authors cite a World Health Organization estimate that more than 6.5 million people die each year from air pollution.  In addition, they say, the global climate is heading for ruinous instability. E…