IT HAPPENS ONLY IN INDIA,
GREAT JOB MR. PARMAR
it is good to eat as many as vegetables and fruits (totally vegetarian), but my aurvedic doctor asked me to stop eating every...
What the disaster did to nuclear ambitions
A year ago, the triple meltdown at the Daiichi power plant in Fukushima sent a chilling reminder of Chernobyl. No matter how pro-nuclear a country was, Fukushima could not be ignored. The immediate reaction was public protests followed by safety reviews of nuclear plants. Nuclear energy came under a serious threat of being sidetracked, albeit for a short period.
Japan, where nuclear power accounts for a fourth of the total energy production and which planned to increase this share to a half by 2030, altered the future energy roadmap. It now plans to supplant its nuclear programme with renewables and has also displayed intentions of using cheap imported gas for producing power.
Elsewhere, the impact of Fukushima varied from negligible to noticeable.
M V Ramana, professor working on nuclear energy and global security at Princeton University in the US, says countries can be categorised into three groups based on their government’s reaction. The first group includes those countries that have reiterated commitment to their nuclear plans with very little change. Their plans may be downscaled because of delays resulting from safety reviews. Good examples are the US and China, Ramana says. The second group consists of countries that have turned away from nuclear power. In many cases, Fukushima only sealed an ongoing process of gradual nuclear phase-out. This group includes Germany, Switzerland and Venezuela. The third group includes those that have temporarily shelved their plans to “continue with, expand, or enter into nuclear power”, Ramana says. “They are being held back by public opinion.” France and Uruguay fall in this category.
Most of the 50-odd countries with nuclear power have adopted the logic that a massive earthquake followed by tsunami is an unlikely calamity to befall most of the 453 reactors on the planet, argues Mark Hibbs, senior associate with Carnegie’s Nuclear Policy Program, based in Germany, in a paper published earlier this year. These governments had deployed nuclear reactors for strategic reasons and have not veered off their plans. “Political leaders in these countries, despite populations suddenly insecure and restive about nuclear safety, won’t hastily foreclose future energy-generating options,” Hibbs reports. But he does notice that since March 2011 governments and industry favouring nuclear power have not succeeded in returning to business as usual.
‘World Energy Outlook 2011’, published by Paris-based International Energy Agency, estimates a more severe impact. It says new regulatory measures, especially to safeguard nuclear reactors from natural catastrophes, would delay capacity addition and renewal of old reactors. Nuclear power capacity could fall from 393 gigawatt (GW) in 2010 to 335 GW in 2035. At 2010 levels nuclear commanded 13 per cent share of the total energy market. By 2035 this could reduce to 7 per cent, the report says.
Europe slows down
After Japan announced withdrawal from nuclear energy, Germany, which sourced 23 per cent of its energy from domestic nuclear plants, decided to abandon nuclear energy. Earlier, Germany was to become nuclear-free by 2021, but in May last year it decided to bring the phase-out dates forward. It will, thus, become the largest bloc in nuclear-friendly Europe to do away with nuclear energy. Following Germany are Belgium, Switzerland and Italy. Switzerland has set 2034 as the year it will be free of nuclear power, while Italy in a referendum held in June 2011 said no to using nuclear energy.
The remaining nuclear powers in Europe intend to split atoms to produce energy, but the way forward could be arduous. France has been the biggest nuclear evangelist extracting 75-80 per cent of its energy from nuclear fusion. But post Fukushima pressure from the political opposition and the public is beginning to show. The Socialist Party and the Green Party have vowed to close down 24 of the 58 reactors in France by 2024 if voted to power in the April 2012 elections. Opinion polls conducted in November show 40 per cent of the French are hesitant about nuclear energy, while 17 per cent are against it. If France crumbles, the repercussions will be felt in the rest of Europe. French companies Areva and Electricite de France are major providers of nuclear equipment and technology. Britain, Czech Republic, Finland and the Netherlands have strong nuclear links with France and are pursuing plans of increasing their share of nuclear energy despite Fukushima.
Asia stays the course
While Europe is slowing down, Asia is racing ahead. China always stands out from the pack no matter what form of energy one talks about. In terms of installed capacity, it has more wind power, coal-based power and more hydro electricity than any other country. Now it plans to do the same with nuclear. China was reportedly aiming to produce 200 GW by 2030. This is 20 times more than its current capacity and about the same amount of energy that India consumes. But after Fukushima, it temporarily suspended approval of new reactors. These new reactors needed to meet the target are besides the 26 under construction and 51 approved. Given the size of the Chinese power industry, nuclear share will remain tiny even after this capacity is added. China is trying a cocktail of technologies; nuclear energy is not crucial for it.
Other Asian countries like South Korea and India will enter the next round of nuclear expansion. South Korea currently generates 31 per cent of its power from 21 reactors and stands firm to push this to 59 per cent by 2030. Vietnam has ordered two Russian reactors. Thailand, which was in advance stages of planning a reactor, has postponed it temporarily after Fukushima.
There is another reason—bigger than Fukushima—countries are shying away from nuclear power. It is the cost.