Thursday, October 24, 2013

Nuclear Energy’s Sweep of Eastern Europe

Sounds like nuclear heaven:

… Hungarians throughout the country [of Hungary – go figure] are still positive about nuclear energy. There has never been a significant anti-nuclear movement. Even politicians, deeply divided about everything else, have reached a broad consensus on energy issues and want to see an expansion of nuclear power. Hungary wants to modernize the four units in Paks to extend their lifespan - and probably build two new ones beside them.'

And heaven is a place on Earth:

Hungary is part of a trend in the region. From the Baltics to Bulgaria, almost all countries are planning a nuclear future. Lithuania and Poland are considering building new plants in spite of significant popular opposition to nuclear power. In the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania and Bulgaria, there are concrete plans for new reactors, supported by the majority.

Interestingly, the countries with public opposition have never had nuclear energy facilities (Poland) or depended on Soviet RBMK reactors (Lithuania), which the European Union pressured the country to retire.

The Visaginas project is still in play in Lithuania (it looked like it might be stopped after a change in government but was not) . The outcome of closing the Ignalina facility was that it turned Lithuania from a net electricity exporter to a net importer, not a great development for a small country.

The story enumerates other Eastern European countries that have or want nuclear energy projects – Romania and Bulgaria specifically – so the sweep of that part of the world is just about complete. All this attention originates here:

Early last week (14.10.2013), the prime ministers of the Visegrad countries - Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary [Visegrad is a coalition of these nations] - confirmed their pro-nuclear stance and called on the European Union not to enact a nuclear energy directive. They said that the choice of primary energy sources a country uses should not be decided in Brussels.

Probably because the EU has a strong German voice and we know how the Germans feel about nuclear energy these days.

It’s amusing to see this indirectly addressed:

One student, 21-year-old Peter Racz, born and raised in the city [Paks, Hungary] and whose grandmother and parents worked at the nuclear plant, would like to continue the tradition. He has just completed a welding course, and next year he wants to study engineering. He hopes this will help him get a skilled job at the plant.

Racz cannot understand why the majority of Germans do not like nuclear energy. "This technology will always be used, it is safe and provides many jobs," he says. "Do the Germans have any other ideas about how to secure their energy supply? I think there is no better solution than nuclear power."

Score one for the Hungarian kid.

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When I travelled through Eastern Europe some years ago (East Germany, then-Czechoslovakia and Hungary), filthy air was the first thing I noticed (well, after stuffing West German marks in my socks to avoid losing them to the hard currency-starved east). Not only because it turned Budapest into London 1900 (pollution so thick it sometimes resembled fog), but because black soot would attach to the skin and had to be scrubbed off. Obviously, the end of a Soviet-dominated Eastern Europe also ended, over time, its status as an environmental cesspool.

Nuclear energy was there then, too, so it could be considered a mitigating factor but not a determinative one in quelling pollution. Now, it can be part of a different solution – not only another way to produce electricity, but to continue clearing away toxic air.

1 comment:

Mike Walker said...

As I stated in my own blog (Science & History at Nuclear Street), Belarus noted very quickly how it depends on the whims of Russia and Gazprom for its energy supply—and went to nuclear to make itself independent. That's what we're seeing more and more in Eastern Europe: the options are clear, either establish your own nuclear power basis or be at the mercy of whatever prices Gazprom wants to command for what comes down its pipeline.