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Nuclear Energy Futures Up at World Energy Congress

Wec-logoInteresting words from the OECD:

Luis Echavarri, director general of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development's Nuclear Energy Agency, told the World Energy Congress that a survey by the intergovernmental organization of industrialized nations found that 25 of its 34 member nations planned to build more nuclear power plants.

That is despite some nations, including Germany, Italy and Switzerland, having decided to phase out nuclear power after a powerful earthquake and tsunami triggered equipment failure and a prolonged release of radioactive material at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in March 2011.

I’d be less interested if this were a nuclear energy meeting – you expect this kind of thing at that kind of thing – but the World Energy Congress does not have a pro- or anti-agenda – well, sort of, as we’ll see. Still, the speakers are nuclear-specific. It’s how they’re being specific that’s interesting:

Danny Roderick, chief executive of US-based nuclear technology and equipment provider Westinghouse Electric, said the company had eight units under construction and its order backlog suggested the figure would increase to more than 30 in five years.

"In the past six months, we have seen more interest in new plants globally than in the past three to four years," he said.

And from China:

Wang Jun, chief engineer of State Nuclear Power Technology, which is responsible for negotiations on the importation of new nuclear technology, said the Sanmen project, the first of its kind to be commercialized, had faced "some challenges".

He said that after the Fukushima disaster, Westinghouse had performed safety checks on the project, which was validated by State Nuclear Power Technology's independent review. "If the Fukushima scenario happens with AP1000, we can say there will be no large release of radiation," he said.

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Now, to be fair, the World Energy Congress does seem relatively conservative, fairly wedded to an image of the industry as a static entity:

Although there was a brief call for R&D spending on energy storage technologies, the communiqué [the welcoming address to the Congress] tried to rubbish as 'myths' the notion of peak oil and the idea future global energy demand will be met by renewables as well as claiming global greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction targets will be impossible without carbon capture and storage technology (CCS).

That’s either counter intuitive or a bracing corrective, depending on your point of view, but it does seem extremely rearguard.

Another 'myth', according to the WEC, is that GHG reduction targets are achievable, with the organization stating its research predicts emissions will almost double in the most optimistic scenario and could quadruple by 2050, adding current business models cannot cope with the increased share of renewable generation and decentralized systems.

That really doesn’t comport with an increase in nuclear energy implementation, and it takes a large unknown – how economically rising countries will fuel their own industrialization – and kind of tosses it aside. But it is possible the Congress is selling a solution through alarmism:

The principal solution proposed by the WEC – which notes the world's energy 'center of gravity' has shifted outside countries in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development to nations like China, India, Brazil and Russia – is a wholesale change in focus from energy supply issues to demand management, with the associated incentives, technological advances and policy support such a paradigm shift would entail.

Think grid, not fuel. The future will require that both fuel and grid issue take first seat in the climate change band, but let’s assume the Congress’s seemingly pinched view caused some productive conversation – the start of dialogue, not a woeful forecast graven in stone.

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The World Energy Council, which hosts the Congress, was founded in 1923. Its motto is “To promote the sustainable supply and use of energy for the greatest benefit of all people.” – very noble indeed. The Congress is held every three years in a different member country, this year in Daegu South Korea, 2007 in Montreal. The last Congress in the U.S. was in 1998 in Houston.

Comments

jim said…
Re: "That is despite some nations, including Germany, Italy and Switzerland, having decided to phase out nuclear power after a powerful earthquake and tsunami triggered equipment failure and a prolonged release of radioactive material at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in March 2011."

Forgive me for being simplistic, but just what does that lame excuse have to do with your own home nukes thousands of miles away from a rare event? God help wind vane politicians!

James Greenidge
Queens NY

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