26 December 2013, 15:32

Post-Fukushima energy production: Russia turns to safe reactors, US enriches uranium

Post-Fukushima energy production: Russia turns to safe reactors, US enriches uranium

As of today, 437 nuclear power plant units are currently operational in 31 countries of the world. They account for every tenth kilowatt-hour (kwh) of electricity generated world-wide. However, this proportion may change soon, some experts say. And the Fukushima Nuclear Power disaster, which occurred nearly three years ago, has served as a reason for that.

According to the Morningstar, US rating agency, the western countries are not going to build new nuclear power plants, with the exception of projects which are currently under development, including two power plants in the USA, one in France, and one in Britain. The huge cost of projects is not in favour of nuclear power production. However, the main thing here is that the majority of ordinary citizens in the western countries are afraid of the peaceful atom. And the Morningstar's report for November offers proof. Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Committee on Natural Resources Maxim Shingarkin has a similar opinion.

"Mainly, insufficiently industrialized countries with excessive population and low incomes say that nuclear power production has a good future. They simply want to make sure of the expediency of nuclear power production. Even speaking about China, one should understand that the volume of planned nuclear power generation in its balance makes up an insignificant percentage," he said.

On the other hand, nuclear energy is much cheaper, and the use of nuclear energy excludes greenhouse gas emissions. Thus, on the whole, it is safer. The use of ordinary fuel has resulted in a great number of deaths, which were caused by various diseases caused by air pollution. And this number is higher than the number of diseases caused by nuclear power plant disruptions. To say nothing of all those who fell victim to incidents at electric power plants and floods. Reliable utilization of nuclear waste and the adoption of reinforced security measures at electric power plants will prove helpful in raising people's trust in the peaceful atom, some experts say. Besides, it is necessary to think over what should be done to encourage private investments in the nuclear sector in order to avoid energy deficits in the future.

This is what the International Energy Agency (IAE) says. Jack Grobe from the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) shares its opinion. Some 82 percent of Americans come out in favour of nuclear power production. And 74 percent of Americans are sure it is reliable and safe. And still, according to the US Nuclear Energy Institute immediately after the Fukushima accident as well as after Chernobyl accident, the popularity of nuclear energy dropped to 46 percent among ordinary US citizens. And it was exactly at that time that Germany had decided to shut down all its 17 nuclear power plants by 2022, Director of the Energy Development Foundation Sergei Pikin says.

"I believe that the policies of the Greens prevailed there. As we can see now, Germany has given preference to the development of alternative sources. Some 200 billion euros will be needed for these purposes in the coming decades. It is clear that German consumers will pay for this. Meaning the German population, not the industry. Thus, it often happens that decisions, which are not well-thought-out, are taken at political level," he said.

However, it is not only politics that matters here. An increase in the natural gas supplies from Russia to Germany is currently visible. Including gas supplies arriving through the Nord Stream pipeline. And as regards the world prices on gas, they have gone down, Chief Editor of the "Pro atom" Publishing House Oleg Dvoinikov says.

"The gas situation in the world is good today. The rivalry in this field is very high. Of course, nuclear power production is experiencing difficulties under such conditions. But it seems to me that all these are temporary decisions. All countries, which have suspended the construction of new nuclear power plants, have got involved in research work, aiming to perfect the existing technologies," he said.

The difference in approaches to nuclear power production between Russia and Germany is explained by the fact that Germany has no access to uranium accumulated by the Soviet Union while the USA has under the UN agreement, and now this uranium is a guarantee of the high efficiency of US nuclear projects.

After the Fukushima accident Russia gave up the Chernobyl-type reactors. According to Oleg Dvoinikov, their service life is coming to an end. "We are introducing new technologies – the Generation Three Plus technologies - and next in turn are the Generation Four Plus technologies. Which means sufficiently reliable nuclear power plants. And much has invested in their security," he said.

Russian water-water energy reactors (WERs) – its latest development - will never explode even if the cooling system is stopped. And if we admit that the inner side of a reactor is melted, dangerous substances will remain in a steel coffin.

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