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22 May 13 16:18

Following the earthquake-induced tsunami on the north-east coast of Japan in 2011 and the crisis it triggered at the Fukushima nuclear plant, public opinion seemed to be unanimous that this form of energy was fraught with danger.

The German government, for example, declared it was going to gradually shut down its nuclear capability altogether and replace it with renewable sources of energy.

But other governments appear to have been unmoved by the event.

For Britain, nuclear power has remained a key plank in its future energy strategy. A recently published policy document stated that it would continue to play an important role in delivering its objective of a "secure, low carbon, affordable, energy future." Neither does France appear ready to change course on this issue. France currently generates 75% of its electricity from nuclear power.

And China and India have just issued a joint statement documenting their intent to collaborate in the field of civilian nuclear energy. Both countries run large-scale nuclear power programmes.

So what are we supposed to think? Provided the power plants are not built in earthquake-prone areas and proper provision has been made for the safe storage of the waste product, nuclear power has to count as a sustainable source of energy, correct? Should it be one of those sustainable energy solutions that my company describes on its website?

Or is nuclear power just too dirty and too risky? What do you think?

Category: Sustainable energy: Nuclear


Aleks Jovanovic - 28 May 2013, 1:34 p.m.

Whereas Western hemisphere condemns nuclear energy as too risky and unclean, current economic and regulatory measures do not speak in favour of renewable energy replacing either fossil fuels or nuclear energy. In addition, what we have seen recently is a revived interest in nuclear energy in Middle and Far East. In UAE, the second nuclear plant's construction is underway, the ministers of Republic of Korea and Abu Dhabi celebrated successful partnership. India and Japan are working together on reaching the agreement on nuclear energy, continuing the discussion which was suspended after Fukushima disaster.
Despite disastrous aftermath of Fukushima incident, nuclear energy is nevertheless hailed as "clean, reliable and efficient" in developing and Far East economies. Renewables simply are not competitive enough and cannot cater to rampant energy consumption in China and India.

Alicia Montoya - 28 May 2013, 9:31 p.m.

I worked at Alstom Power where President Philippe Joubert had a visionary Clean Power strategy. As much as we all like renewables, the fact is, as Aleks says, renewables are simply not competitive... yet. Until then, we have huge power needs that will need all the technologies.

At Alstom, the Clean Power strategy was based on 3 pillars:
- Efficiency: Make power plants as efficient as possible so as to deliver more MWs per unit of fuel
- Balanced portfolio, maximizing CO2-free technologies (and yep, that includes nuclear which can deliver enormous power at practically no emissions - leaving the whole nuclear waste issue aside, of course)
- Carbon capture & storage (CCS) : capture that CO2 and store it underground. This technology has already been proven in a number of large-scale pilots

So efficient fossil fuel plants with CCS and nuclear plants will most likely stick around for years to come... as transition technologies, at least. The question is where do we want to be by 2030? 2050? And what kind of regulatory changes does the industry need to make the clean energy investments required to make these technologies competitive?

Paritosh Singh - 31 May 2013, 7:37 a.m.

I love this topic so much and thank you Richard for bringing it on openminds!

If not nuclear energy, countries will have to rely heavily upon energy from burning coal/water turbine power plants. Stashed below earth for millions of years, the coals release more co2 than burning a cut down tree. Besides, mining & transporting itself pose a huge problem and many a times, loss of lives.

If you see the output to waste ratio, nuclear energy wins by a huge margin! Its clean, but its dangerous. The decomposition takes longer time but they do decompose (referring to the half-life of radioactive material). On the other hand, taking care of the slush produced after a coal based power plant, is still a headache many have to deal with.

The wind mills projects from Alstom and Suzlon (India) show us a wonderful side of the clean tech, but on the flip side we need really tall windmills plus maintenance of these gigantic windmills is not any cheaper either, that of course once the transportation has been taken care off.

What I believe the right way should be, is a mix of Nuclear and Wind and Solar energy. Before moving to Wind and Solar and lies completely or at least 80-90%!

Along this journey we would also require to:
1. Control the population growth.
2. Invest in research area, particularly in the storage of electricity, to help advance the clean tech.

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