The EU will have to make much greater use of nuclear power if we are to significantly reduce carbon emissions
Around 30.5% of the entire net electricity produced in the EU comes from nuclear power [European Nuclear Society]. While some EU countries have no nuclear power stations, France produces 78% of its energy from nuclear power. The EU has not yet found a comprehensive solution to the challenge of satisfying the thirst for energy, let alone for satisfying this thirst while reducing carbon emissions. This may mean that an increase in nuclear power generation is needed to meet EU commitments.
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Energy demands are increasing
Although EU countries are using energy more efficiently, demand for energy continues to rise, especially in the new eastern European member states. The demand for electricity is expected to rise by 8-9% by 2020 meaning more need for generating capacity.[[Update of the nuclear illustrative programme in the context of the second strategic energy review, 13th November 2008, Brussels, http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=COM:2008:0776:FIN:EN:HTML%5D%5D
At the same time World energy consumption is projected to expand by 50 percent from 2005 to 2030 leading to high oil and gas prices making these less desirable for electricity generation.[[International Energy Outlook 2008, Energy Information Administration, June 2008, Chapter 1, http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/ieo/world.html%5D%5D The production of renewable energy is not growing at a fast enough pace to replace the desired decrease in usage of environmentally unfriendly fossil fuels. Nuclear power is a cost efficient and reliable source of power in the EU, and as the first generation of power stations are decommissioned, new stations must be built in the near future to ensure that the sizeable contribution of nuclear power to the energy mix is sustained. The next generation of power stations produce cleaner energy, more efficiently and safely.
Despite increasing demand the amount of that electricity being generated by nuclear is projected to fall not rise. The share of nuclear energy will decrease from 30% to between 25% and 26% in electricity generation and from 14% to between 12% and 14% in total primary energy demand by 2020. According to current projections, the nuclear generation capacity in the EU would fall by as much as 33 GWe by 2020, this fall would mostly have to be met by dirty power plants using gas, or particularly coal.[[ Update of the nuclear illustrative programme in the context of the second strategic energy review, 13th November 2008, Brussels, http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=COM:2008:0776:FIN:EN:HTML%5D%5D
Renewable sources are still unreliable
Wind, tidal, and solar power are all affected by issues of reliability. The tendency of wind power, in particular, to be a volatile source of energy, means that other power sources such as fossil fuel power stations have to make up the shortfall when wind levels drop. Power stations need to be switched on and off to compensate, causing higher inefficiency [[Renewable Energy Foundation]]. Tidal power technology is still in at an early stage and may take years to become profitable. It also has the potential to cause environmental problems in the marine environment. For a large area of the European Union, there is not the potential to exploit solar power as there are not enough hours of sunlight.
They may be unreliable but not enough has been done to make use of all the natural energy sources that do not create the kind of damage nuclear power generation causes. Yes we need to develop more efficient ways to capture wind, water and solar power, to explore other options and to reduce the level of power required. This is not an argument for nuclear power but one for greater resources to be put to develop natural energy sources and help protect the planet for future generations.
Also the price of solar power is decreasing at the incredible rate of 7% per year.
The European Union is a net importer for energy, and as such is reliant on Russia and Norway, predominantly, for oil and gas supplies. Events such as the dispute between Russia and the Ukraine over gas supplies in January this year demonstrated that the EU’s energy can easily be disrupted by political situations outwith its control. But it also means that the EU could be drawn into disputes between Russia and neighbouring countries such as the Ukraine, because European gas supplies flow through the Ukraine. This could set a dangerous precedent, where the EU could be intimidated by Russia, because the EU relies so heavily on Russian gas. Russia is moving towards creating a gas cartel that would further undermine EU energy security in relation to Russia. A meeting in Doha in 2007 of the Gas-Exporting Countries’s Forum took the first steps to creating a cartel at the intergovernmental level that would control gas supplies in a similar way to OPEC, this would be dominated by Russia and could be used to prevent the construction of alternative gas routes to Europe that bypass Russia.[[ Vladimir Socor, Gazprom, the prospects of a Gas Cartel, and Europe’s Energy Security, in Svante E. Cornell and Niklas Nilsson eds., Europe’s Energy Security Gazprom’s Dominance and Caspian Supply Alternatives, (Institute for Security and Development Policy, Stockholm, 2008), pp.71-84., pp.72-75.]] Building more nuclear power stations would ensure a more secure supply of energy, thereby avoiding the potential for energy supply to become a politically charged issue on an international scale.
Nuclear power has its own international security concerns, attempts to obtain yellow-cake uranium, which is mined but not yet enriched, is not in itself a cause for security concerns and in many cases is perfectly legitimate, however the more reactors there are the more enriched uranium will be moving around the world. Many countries have enrichment capacity, but it is often less than their overall fuel needs, and thus they rely on fuel imports to make up the difference.[[Toni Johnson, Global Uranium Supply and Demand, Council on Foreign Relations, 2nd November 2007, http://www.cfr.org/publication/14705/%5D%5D Enriched uranium can be used to make nuclear bombs, or for terrorists a 'dirty' bomb which is as much of a security concern as Russian control over gas supplies. It should also be remembered that like oil and gas Uranium needs to be imported, the two biggest suppliers are Australia and Canada, both considered reliable suppliers. However Kazakhstan aims to become the world’s number one supplier by sometime this year (2009)[[Kazakhstan plans to become global leader in uranium production by 2009, Silk Road Intelligencer, 23rd July 2008, http://silkroadintelligencer.com/2008/07/23/kazakhstan-plans-to-become-global-leader-in-uranium-production-by-2009/ ]] and other major producers such as Russia, Namibia, Niger and Uzbekistan may not be reliable.
coal fired power stations
According to James Hansen, eminent climate scientist, the most important thing we need to do is to phase out coal fired power stations as they are the biggest and most damaging emitters of CO2. We are going to need to replace them plus all the nuclear stations that are due to close - so we will have to find large amounts of electricity from somewhere.
Wind, wave, solar etc will simply not provide the quantities we need. Add to that the need to eventually de-carbonise our transport and heating systems and move to electric buses, cars etc and heat pumps and we can see that we are going to need a lot more electricity in the future than we currently use. Nuclear power seems the best option - it is not completely without it's problems but they pale into insignificance compared with the dangers of climate change. However, rising sea levels must be taken into account in deciding where to position them.
The only other possible source of electricity on the scale needed would be desert solar. We probably need to develop both.
What happened to fast breeder reactors? - they were supposed to be going to be safer and not produce the dangerous waste.
It is up to each member state whether to use nuclear power
Ultimately It is for each Member State to decide whether or not to rely on nuclear power for the generation of electricity. Some member s such as France and Finland have already decided to increase the share of nuclear power in their electricity mix, while others such as Britain have decided to keep it at roughly the same level by replacing old nuclear power plants that are nearing the end of their working lives. While still others plan on phasing nuclear power out of service due to public concerns.[[A European Approach to Nuclear Power, Safety and Security, 10th January 2007, Brussels, http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=MEMO/07/10 ]] Overall there is no pan-EU policy on nuclear power so there is unlikely to be an overall increase in the use of nuclear power. Any attempts by the EU to enforce a greater use of nuclear would be opposed both by the public and some governments.
Many member states are likely to find that they have to include nuclear in their energy mix in order to meet the demands of the carbon emission reductions that they have agreed too.
Safety means some decomissioning of old reactors
There will have to be some reduction in the amount of nuclear power used in Europe due to concerns over old reactors, particularly in the new Eastern European members. Since enlargement there have been closures of nuclear plants in Bulgaria, Lithuania and Slovakia, while others have been upgraded to give an extended lifespan. According to Agenda 2000 "The problem of nuclear safety in some candidate countries causes serious concerns to the EU... and should be urgently and effectively addressed. It is imperative that solutions, including closure where required, be found to these issues in accordance with the Community nuclear acquis and a "nuclear safety culture" as established in the western world as soon as possible”[[European Nuclear Threats Old and New, Nuclear Monitor, November 2003, pp.3-5, http://www.eu-energy.com/finalesf.pdf%5D%5D
The dangers of nuclear power are massively over hyped. It's much safer then coal and oil.
Nuclear makes very little difference
The EU wants to prevent a temperature rise of more than 2 degrees, this would involve limiting greenhouse gas concentration to 450 ppm of CO2-eq. World energy-related CO2 emissions would need to drop sharply from 2020 onwards, reaching less than 26 Gt in 2030. Nobuo Tanaka, Executive Director of the International Energy Agency has stated “We would need concerted action from all major emitters. Our analysis shows that OECD countries alone cannot put the world onto a 450-ppm trajectory, even if they were to reduce their emissions to zero”.[[ New Energy Realities - WEO Calls for Global Energy Revolution Despite Economic Crisis, 12th November 2008, http://www.iea.org/textbase/press/pressdetail.asp?PRESS_REL_ID=275%5D%5D The EU would need to take radical measures to get to this point, and because nuclear power involves carbon emissions in mining the uranium as well as constructing the nuclear power plants nuclear power could not be part of the solution. This means that the EU should not take the risks associated with Nuclear power as they alone cannot solve the problem.
New nuclear power stations can cost up to £2.8 billion to build [Daily Telegraph], and also take years to construct. Governments are also faced with the dilemma of whether to spend such an enormous amount of money something which splits public opinion so vociferously. In the meantime, billions are still being spent on decommissioning the old ones. The New Economics Foundation contends that these construction overruns and decomissoning costs are ‘hidden costs’ that are not included in the official statistics meaning that Nuclear is actually much more expensive than is claimed. According to British Energy and British Nuclear Fuels, the cost of nuclear generation is between 2.2 and 3.0p/kWh. But the NEF says that this figure is probably a severe underestimate, with the real cost being somewhere between 3.4 and 8.3/kWh. This means that at a cost of 3.0-4.0p/kWh for offshore and 1.5-2.5/kWh for onshore production, wind is a far cheaper option than nuclear.[[Cost of Nuclear ‘Underestimated’, BBC News, 29th June 2005, http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/4631737.stm%5D%5D In comparison, building cleaner coal fired power stations and investing in renewable energy technologies and developing new methods for drilling unexploited oil reserves would be much less costly in purely financial terms.
For nuclear power plants any cost figures normally include spent fuel management, plant decommissioning and final waste disposal. These costs, while usually external for other technologies, are internal for nuclear power (ie they have to be paid or set aside securely by the utility generating the power, and the cost passed on to the customer in the actual tariff), therefore if they are already included in the generation cost then the NEF is wrong and nuclear power is competitive. The cost of decommissioning is often overestimated, decommissioning costs are about 9-15% of the initial capital cost of a nuclear power plant. But when discounted, they contribute only a few percent to the investment cost and even less to the generation cost. Nuclear is actually increasing its competitiveness as gas and oil prices rise, new technology makes nuclear power more efficient and construction and decommissioning costs less. An OECD study in 2005 showed Nuclear overnight construction costs ranged from US$ 1000/kW in Czech Republic to $2500/kW in Japan, and averaged $1500/kW. Coal plants were costed at $1000-1500/kW, gas plants $500-1000/kW and wind capacity $1000-1500/kW.[[The Economics of Nuclear Power, World Nuclear Association, January 2009, http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf02.html%5D%5D
Nuclear waste that has been building up since the 1950s has still not been disposed of safely, and must be kept away from humans for hundreds of thousands of years. Stories frequently feature in the news about nuclear contamination of the sea and areas surrounding power plants. Many EU countries have problems finding places to store their nuclear waste. For example a report by the Environment agency attacked Britain’s disposal system as many containers used to store the waste are made of second-rate materials, are handled carelessly, and are liable to corrode; computer models suggest up to 40 per cent of them could be at risk within as little as 200 years. Tens of thousands of containers of this waste, bound in concrete, are simply being stored above ground, mainly at Sellafield, while the Government and the nuclear industry decide what to do with them. On present plans it is assumed they will remain there for up to another 150 years before being placed in a repository underground, and then another 50 years before it is sealed.[[Geoffrey Lean, Nuclear waste containers likely to fail, warns ‘devastating’ report, The Independent, 24th Aug., 2008, http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/green-living/nuclear-waste-containers-likely-to-fail-warns-devastating-report-907200.html%5D%5D This problem would only be added to if more nuclear power stations were built. There is the ever present risk of accidents happening, the after-effects of which can be spread across a wide area by wind, and last for decades.
Coal gives of more radioactive waste then uranium because of the trace isotopes. A small amount of uranium can be used to produce millions of times more energy then the same amount of coal.
The waste from coal is not contained at all while the waste from nuclear waste is.
We hear a lot about ‘peak oil’ however it is not mentioned that there is also a potential problem with the supply of uranium peaking. There is already a problem with demand and supply; “There is currently a gap in the amount of uranium being mined and the amount of uranium being consumed,” states Nuclear Energy Corporation of South Africa (Necsa) CEO Rob Adam. “The difference is made up of the down blending of military stocks, largely in Russia, and the reprocessing of spent fuel into mixed oxides fuel.” This means that uranium miners will have to double production by 2015 if they are to meet demand.[[Matthew Hill, Global uranium production will need to double by 2015 to catch up with demand, mining weekly, 25th June 2007, http://www.miningweekly.com/article/global-uranium-production-will-need-to-double-by-2015-to-catch-up-with-demand-2007-06-25%5D%5D This would potentially be ok if it did not look like we are approaching a uranium peak. Peak uranium seems likely to arrive sometime between 2030 and 2040 with uranium being almost totally gone by 2070 or 2120 at the latest. It is the peak that matters, at this point supply will not be able to keep up with demand. If you take into account that nuclear energy produces 16% of world electricity, and less than 5% primary energy supply, it seems impossible to me for nuclear energy with current technology to ever satisfy a big part of the world's energy demand.[[ Uranium resources and nuclear energy, Energy watch group, December 2006, p.5., http://www.energywatchgroup.org/fileadmin/global/pdf/EWG_Report_Uranium_3-12-2006ms.pdf%5D%5D
If you decrease the acceptable concentration of uranium or by a factor of 10, then the available uranium goes up by a factor of 300!
Ways of getting significant amounts of uranium from see water have been created, the prices are several times that of normal uranium though, but the fuel makes up only 5%-9% of the total costs of the power!
nuclear power produces co2
Nuclear power stations produce lower carbon emissions than coal or gas-fired power stations. However this is not the case when the whole nuclear power cycle is taken into account including uranium mining, processing, transportation, power station construction and decommissioning. Moreover, the world only has a limited amount of high quality uranium ore – maybe not more than 50 years’ worth and less if there is a big global increase in nuclear power. Below grade 0.02% (U3O8Uranium Oxide) more energy is required to produce and exploit the uranium fuel than can be generated from it. Mining lower quality ore will increase carbon emissions because it is more difficult to extract and so requires more energy. Assuming world nuclear generating capacity remains at 2005 levels, after about 2016 the mean grade of uranium ore will fall significantly from today’s levels, and even more so after 2034. After about 60 years the world nuclear power system will fall off the ‘Energy Cliff’ – meaning that the nuclear system will consume as much energy as can be generated from the uranium fuel. So if new nuclear power stations are built then they will only be half way through their life cycle before they become useless.[[ Jan Willem Storm van Leeuwen, Energy Security and Uranium reserves, July 2006 http://www.oxfordresearchgroup.org.uk/publications/briefing_papers/pdf/energyfactsheet4.pdf%5D%5D
Actually, it is the case when all that is taken into account. Mainly because the coal and gas production cycle has been omitted from Mr. van Leeuwen's calculations. He also conveniently forgets to mention that his report is based on the currently known sources of uranium ore, which are most likely only a fraction of the total existing in the Earth's crust.
The "energy cliff" is an interesting concept as well, and one I have never seen before. This is, perhaps, because it does not account for any advancement in technology, and one would have to be incredibly dense to truly believe that there will be no improvement in extraction and refinement capability in the next 60 years, especially if there were to be a large swing towards nuclear power.
Once again, your quoted source is a fabrication of conveniently skewed data from a man unwilling to accept nuclear power.
What do you think?