Japan nuclear scare boosts renewables lobby

Apr 06, 2011 by Martin Abbugao
Publicity for wind power is seen at a technology fair in Hanover in central Germany. A global scare sparked by Japan's stumbling efforts to contain a nuclear crisis is encouraging promoters of renewable energy, but defenders of atomic power insist it has a long-term future.

A global scare sparked by Japan's stumbling efforts to contain a nuclear crisis is encouraging promoters of renewable energy, but defenders of atomic power insist it has a long-term future.

Until the giant earthquake and tsunami that struck northeastern Japan on March 11 damaged the Fukushima plant, nuclear power was emerging as one of the main choices for countries looking at cleaner, alternative energy options.

Because it is free from , atomic power has been held up as a major plank in the battle to fight global warming, and now accounts for about 14 percent of the world's .

But daily television images of the struggle to cool down overheated reactors at Fukishima have generated concern in countries that import Japanese food and other products, and reinforced long-held fears over nuclear technology.

"The Fukushima crisis may result in significant changes in energy policy in Asia, reducing plans for nuclear energy and boosting liquefied natural gas and renewables," said Rajiv Biswas, chief Asia economist at IHS Global Insight.

"It will refocus government efforts to boost including solar, wind and geothermal energy," the Singapore-based economist said.

In cases where democratic governments insist on building nuclear power plants, "the public can force them to reconsider", he added.

Globally, there are more than 440 active commercial nuclear power reactors in 30 countries, producing 377,000 megawatts of electricity, according to the World Nuclear Association.

Graphic detailing clean, renewable energy sources and their share in global electricity production.

Of 62 reactors currently being built around the world, 40 are in Asia, and 96 of the 158 being planned are also in the region, the association's figures show.

Samantha Smith, leader for and energy initiative at the environmental group WWF International, which opposes , said Fukushima has prompted "a resurgence in support for alternatives to nuclear".

She cited the decision of European leaders to carry out "stress tests" for the continent's nuclear plants, China's cutting of nuclear power targets and a German moratorium on further operation of older reactors as evidence of the changing mood.

In addition, the market values of many companies and utilities involved with, and investing in, nuclear power have dropped, while share prices of some firms have risen, she told AFP.

"Investing in clean, renewable energy is clearly preferable to the unacceptable human, environmental and financial risks posed by nuclear power," Smith said.

However, Fatih Birol, chief economist of the International Energy Agency (IEA), conversely warned that a slowdown in the growth of nuclear power worldwide will seriously hamper the fight against climate change.

Cooling towers are seen at the Limerick Generating Station, a nuclear power plant in Pottstown, Pennsylvania. Globally, there are more than 440 active commercial nuclear power reactors in 30 countries, producing 377,000 megawatts of electricity, according to the World Nuclear Association.

Since Fukushima, the IEA modelled the consequences if its earlier projection of 360 gigawatts of additional power from nuclear plants by 2035 is halved to 180 gigawatts, due to the more cautious attitude towards atomic plants.

Using coal, natural gas and "renewables" to take up the slack from nuclear energy would result in additional carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions of 500 million tonnes, Birol told AFP by telephone from the IEA's office in Paris.

It will also push up electricity prices -- due to higher demand for coal and gas to compensate for lost nuclear capacity -- and affect global energy security, he said.

Ian Hore-Lacy, a spokesman for the World Nuclear Association, said that when the high emotions sparked by Japan's calmed down, the world will still need to look for energy sources to meet growing demand, and nuclear power will remain an option.

"When all this is sorted, world demand will be just the same as last week, the demand for reliable electricity supply will still be on a path to doubling in two decades," he told AFP.

"The options for meeting that demand will be just the same."

Explore further: Green technology saves energy and boosts profits, productivity in factories

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Nuclear power vital to cutting CO2 emissions: report

Jun 16, 2010

Roughly a quarter of global electricity could be generated by nuclear power by 2050, requiring a tripling in nuclear generating capacity but making a major contribution to reduced CO2 emissions, a report said ...

EU to mull 'stress tests' for nuclear plants

Mar 15, 2011

The European Union will discuss Tuesday whether to conduct "stress tests" on atomic power plants to check their safety in light of Japan's nuclear crisis, a European Commission spokeswoman said.

Recommended for you

Preparing for a zero-emission urban bus system

16 hours ago

In order to create a competitive and sustainable transport system, the EU must look to alternative fuels to replace or complement petrol and diesel. Not only will this reduce transport emissions but it will ...

Exploring the value of 'Energy Star' homes

17 hours ago

The numbers in neat columns tell—column by column, page by page—a story spread out across Carmen Carrión-Flores' desk at Binghamton University. It's a great story, she says; she just doesn't know how ...

Toward a networked energy future

Oct 29, 2014

February 1, 2050, is a good day for German electricity consumers. The breeze off the north coast is blowing so strongly that offshore wind farms and the wind turbines on land are running non-stop. Since it's ...

User comments : 2

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

alec123456789
3 / 5 (1) Apr 06, 2011
I actually think this disaster will help nuclear.

What we have here is a quadruple meltdown after one of the biggest earthquakes in history, followed by a 20ft tsunami, hit an old first generation dinosaur run by a dodgy utility with a long history of safety problems. It's the worst case scenario (for a reactor of this type).

People are seeing that even the worst case scenario really isn't all that bad. Nuclear produces 13% of the world's electricity, but certainly does not produce 13% of the worlds electricity-generation related or health problems. Per kilowatt-hour, more people have been killed setting up wind turbines!
antialias_physorg
not rated yet Apr 06, 2011
People are seeing that even the worst case scenario really isn't all that bad.

Wait until you do the sums for the economic fallout:
Fishing will be out of the question in those areas for years to come - as will agriculture (the latter more likely for decades). The only reason the world won't notice is because Japan doesn't export much of either.

Now imagine a country with strong exports being hit by such a disaster. If these costs were to be paid by power companies (or their insurance companies) then nuclear energy would be FAR more expensive than any other type of energy source.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.