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Category — Nuclear Power

Boom-or-doom riddle for nuclear industry

Paul Brown


Doubling up: solar panels at a nuclear power plant in the Czech Republic. Image: Jiří Sedláček (Frettie) via Wikimedia Commons

The nuclear industry remains remarkably optimistic about its future, despite evidence that it is a shrinking source of power as renewables increasingly compete to fill the energy gap. 

The headline figures for 2014 from the nuclear industry describe a worldwide boom in progress, with 73 reactors presently being built and another 481 new ones either planned or approved.

The World Nuclear Association (WNA) official website paints a rosy picture of an industry expected to expand dramatically by 2030. It says that over the period 1996 to 2013 the world retired 66 reactors, and 71 started operation. Between now and 2030, the industry expects another 74 reactors to close, but 272 new ones to come on line.

This represents a much larger net increase in nuclear electricity production than the basic figures suggest because most of the newer power stations have a bigger capacity than those closing down. [Read more →]

July 29, 2014   No Comments

Enough uranium, but nuclear power is still shrinking

Paul Brown


Highly enriched uranium: The growing difficulty of extracting high-quality ore is increasing greenhouse gas emissions. Image: Via Wikimedia Commons

Many people believe nuclear power could save the planet from climate change. But several factors mean the industry is dying, a new analysis suggests.

There is enough uranium available on the planet to keep the world’s nuclear industry going for as long as it is needed. But it will grow steadily more expensive to extract, because the quality of the ore is getting poorer, according to new research.

Years of work in compiling information from around the world has led Gavin M. Mudd from Monash University in Clayton, Australia to believe that it is economic and political restraints that will kill off nuclear power and not any shortage of uranium, as some have claimed.

Writing in the journal Environmental Science & Technology that renewables do not have the disadvantages of nuclear power, which needs large uranium mines that are hard to rehabilitate and which generates wastethat remains dangerous for more than 100,000 years.

In addition, research shows that renewable technologies are expanding very fast and could produce all the energy needs of advanced economies, phasing out both fossil fuels and nuclear.

Mudd, who is a lecturer in the department of civil engineering at Monash, has compiled decades of data on the availability and quality of uranium ore. He concludes that, while uranium is plentiful, mining the ore is very damaging to the environment and the landscape.

It is expensive to rehabilitate former mines, not least because of the dangerous levels of radiation left behind. As a result many of the potential sources of uranium will not be exploited because of opposition from people who live in the area. [Read more →]

April 12, 2014   No Comments

New (nuclear) kid on the block

Paul Brown

One of the gate guards in a hazmat suit, helmet and dual intake respirator

Fukushima sent shivers down many spines: The new reactors are designed to be much safer. Image: Steve Herman via Wikimedia Commons

Small reactors in kit form, designed with an emphasis on safety, are the latest idea aimed at reviving the fortunes of the nuclear industry.

The race is on to develop a new breed of small nuclear reactors that will be operated underground and need refuelling as seldom as once a decade.

Small modular reactors – or SMRs, as they are known – are seen by the nuclear power industry as the most promising technology of the future because they avoid many of the safety problems of much larger power plants and are also easier and quicker to construct.

Underground, they would be less vulnerable to terrorist attack and have cooling systems that could keep them safe for seven days without human intervention.

The industry already has 20 competing designs on offer. Some see the reactors working in tandem with renewables to provide electricity for remote communities that currently rely on polluting diesel generators. This would reduce local pollution and combat climate change. [Read more →]

January 8, 2014   No Comments

Suzuki – Schindler – Fukushima – Dire Warning? You decide…

December 10, 2013   No Comments

Leading climate scientists say nuclear power is vital

Alex Kirby


The way to go?: Nuclear plant at Cattenom, France. Image: Stefan Kühn via Wikimedia Commons

Four leading scientists say the world will have to use nuclear power as well as renewable energy if it is to tackle the threat posed by climate change.

The combined contribution of wind, solar and other forms of renewable energy cannot provide enough power for the world to escape the ravages of climate change, according to four prominent scientists.

They say it is essential for society to use nuclear technology as well, though they acknowledge that it needs to be safer than many of today’s plants actually are.

The four scientists are James Hansen, formerly of NASA; Ken Caldeira, of the Carnegie Institution; Kerry Emanuel, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and Tom Wigley, from Australia’s University of Adelaide.

They make their inevitably divisive call in an open letter to environmental groups and politicians worldwide. The US news agency Associated Press (AP) was given an advance copy.

The letter says what is needed is to discuss the role of nuclear power in fighting climate change. It is a realistic suggestion, if you share the authors’ conviction that nuclear energy has a valid contribution to make.

But many environmental analysts and campaigners are vehement that the nuclear route is no option at all, some on safety grounds but others because it is so expensive. They say if the same money were spent onrenewables, as happens in Germany, the problem could be solved sooner. [Read more →]

November 4, 2013   No Comments