Would you like a Nuclear Plant in your Backyard?

Posted: March 19, 2011 by Zeddington in Energy
Tags: , , , ,

The terrible and tragic earthquake and subsequent tsunami that rocked Japan on Friday the 11th of March immediately shut down eleven of Japan’s nuclear reactors. The latest news from Japan on that is that six of the nuclear plants appear to be stabilizing, following efforts from engineers and firefighters to cool the reactors. Despite progress, however, it appears that this nuclear crisis is far from over.

The issue has sparked a new round of nuclear of protests and reinvigorated the debate as to whether we should rely on nuclear power at all, and the focus is on safety. After the disaster, protests have been taking place around the world, including France, Germany, Italy, and elsewhere. Even in the United States, where there are 104 operating nuclear reactors (many of which are almost as old as the Japanese reactors that failed). Vermont’s Senate has recently voted to close their Yankee nuclear plant, an unusual move in itself, but one that recognizes the inherent dangers of old nuclear plants.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, Abu Dhabi is building one of the largest nuclear power plants in the world. The UAE, a tiny, oil-rich country, feels that this $20bn project is essential for their long-term development. While the last link clearly details some legitimate reasons for UAE to desire more sources of energy, why must it be nuclear? For a country that has a more-than-reasonable amount of open desert, and a lot of sunshine, why isn’t solar energy being more seriously considered as a source of energy? How do other Arab countries feel about having a brand new nuclear power plant in their backyard?

It’s worth remembering that assurances about safety are always made. No nuclear power plant has ever been built without the owners assuring the public that the plant is 100% safe. And yet we’ve seen accidents before. And having a nuclear meltdown is not like falling off your bike. It’s much, much more serious. From an excellent article on Al Jazeera English:

 

At least 99 nuclear accidents meeting this definition, totaling more than $20.5 billion in damages, occurred worldwide from 1952 to 2009 – or more than one incident and $330 million in damage every year, on average, for the past three decades. And, of course, this average does not include the Fukushima catastrophe.

Indeed, when compared to other energy sources, nuclear power ranks higher than oil, coal, and natural gas systems in terms of fatalities, second only to hydroelectric dams. There have been 57 accidents since the Chernobyl disaster in 1986. While only a few involved fatalities, those that did collectively killed more people than have died in commercial US airline accidents since 1982.

Another index of nuclear-power accidents – this one including costs beyond death and property damage, such as injured or irradiated workers and malfunctions that did not result in shutdowns or leaks – documented 956 incidents from 1942 to 2007. And yet another documented more than 30,000 mishaps at US nuclear-power plants alone, many with the potential to have caused serious meltdowns, between the 1979 accident at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania and 2009.

 

In this day and age, when technologies for the production of safe and clean energy exist, is there any justification for persisting with dangerous sources of energy, like nuclear? Is it worth the risk?

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Comments
  1. Clean energy exists but I don’t think it can replace completely the amount provided by oil and gas
    I am Italian and I voted against, at the recent referendum, not because I do not trust completely nuclear, but because I don’t trust my government They would give the contract to whomever may bribe them regardless of safety Russia and france will be perfect candidates for our current leadership
    UAE made the right move giving the contract to korea if i am not mistaken, because that way they are out of pressure
    In the end also nuclear becomes a powerful tool

  2. Zeddington says:

    Thanks for commenting. I followed the Italian referendum quite closely, and was surprised by the turnout – from what I know, turnout in Italy for these kinds of these usually aren’t that high. I was also happy to see the vote against water privatization, something I’ll write about some time soon.

    Clean energy technologies are still developing, but the potential is there. I noticed on your blog you are passionate about Oman. There is a report by the Authority of Electricity Regulation written in 2008 that states that all of Oman’s energy needs could be met by solar energy alone, and that the capacity and capability is there. I am sure the UAE would have a similar situation, even if it is smaller and has higher energy needs.

    The worry about nuclear energy is that if/when something goes wrong, it becomes a major disaster. After the Fukushima meltdown, there were traces of radiation in rain drops as far away as New York City and beyond. That’s all the way across the world!

    • yes the first quorum reached after 16 years πŸ˜› In a way, it was against Berlusconi , because it was against laws on which he had worked
      I wanted to vote against water privatization because I thought it was like that, but then I did the opposite cause in reality it was to set up public bids, no more no less
      Infrastructures are old and public administrations do not have money, so if one must speculate on that, let’s give it to private
      Waiting for your post

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