In July 2007, Oxford Research Group in London released a report about the future of civil nuclear power applications and about the threat of nuclear proliferation. It's title is "Too hot to handle?" A link to the full article is provided at the end of this text.
Here are the conclusions of the report:
Nuclear phase-out means the discontinuation of usage of nuclear power for electrical energy production. Usually because of concerns about nuclear energy, existing plants are either shut down or not renewed after being retired.
Many European countries have decided to phase-out nuclear power, for details see further below. Under the umbrella of global warming, lobbying organizations of the atomic industry are putting high pressure on several governments to postpone the planned shut down of nuclear power stations or even to cancel the phase-out altogether. Their main argument is the relatively low CO2 emission of nuclear power compared to fossil fuels coal, oil and natural gas. However nuclear energy should rather be compared to sustainable energies and not to fossils.
The general pros and cons of nuclear power are discussed on a separate page. Here we concentrate on the pros and cons of nuclear phase-out.
Electricity from nuclear energy is considered to be economical and very cost effective, in particular compared to electricity from renewable energy sources like wind, water, sun, biomass or geothermal energy.
There are two main reasons for the relative low cost of nuclear power:
The International Energy Agency (IEA) predicts a strong increase of the carbon dioxide emissions by the year 2030. Additionally, IEA investigated to which extent the above mentioned emissions of CO2 could be prevented if politics applied rigorous measures.
From all measures investigated, nuclear energy was found to have the least effect (only 10%). Almost 80% of the desired effects are due to increasing the energy efficiency.
This result is surprising, in particular if you think about how nuclear power is praised as solution to global warming by politicians like George W. Bush and Tony Blair. It seems like they would (again) head into the wrong direction.
Instead of talking about measures to increase the energy efficiency, which accounts for 80% of the effects, some politicians propagandize building nuclear power plants, which according to IEA can only account for 10% of the desired effects. Here the focus is clearly on the wrong subject!
This graph shows the nuclear power consumption per capita by country for the year 2003 in kg oil equivalents.
This graph will certainly change during the next 10 to 20 years because several countries decided not to replace retired nuclear power plants any more and to phase-out nuclear energy. In the European Union, 17 out of the 27 member countries do either have no nuclear power plants or have already decided to sooner or later stop using this technology (among them are Sweden and Germany). Switzerland is also quite unlikely to rebuild nuclear power plants since any new nuclear plant needed to get acceptance in a public vote.
World-wide, there are currently 435 nuclear power plants in operation and 28 under construction (January 2007). The chart on the right hand side shows the number of nuclear power plants in operation by country.
For countries with nuclear weapons, the bar is red, for countries without nuclear weapons, the bar is blue.
Therefore it appears to be quite doubtful that using nuclear power for civil purposes is independent from military applications. The graph above seems to rather indicate "the more nuclear power plants, the more likely nuclear weapons". Read on...
According to the American Energy Information Administration (EIA) and to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the world-wide energy consumption will on average continue to increase by 2% per year.
A yearly increase by 2% leads to a doubling of the energy consumption every 35 years. This means the world-wide energy consumption is predicted to be twice as high in the year 2040 compared to today (2007).
By far the highest increase in world-wide energy consumption is predicted to be from all three fossil fuels: oil, coal and natural gas (see graph)! The renewable energies are predicted to grow as well, but much less than fossil energies. Nuclear energy is predicted to grow relatively moderate.
It is only possible to mitigate global warming if the world-wide consumption of fossil fuels can be drastically reduced in the next 10 to 15 years. There is simply no room for a scenario as it is predicted by the International Energy Agency IEA.
It is also obvious that no combination of alternative technologies can replace the current usage of fossil fuels. There is simply not enough non-fossil fuel available for this. In order to mitigate global warming, we have to use the available energy much more efficiently. But this won't be enough either: We will have to change our behaviour to reduce our personal energy consumption. We must change our current live style and seriously strive for a sustainable living .
Read on for details and background...
As a result of the current discussion how further global warming could be prevented or at least mitigated, the revival of nuclear power seems to be in everybody's - or at least in many politician's - mind. It it interesting to see that in many suggestions to mitigate global warming, the focus is put on the advantages of nuclear power generation, its disadvantages are rarely mentioned.
Below is a short summary of arguments for and against nuclear power plants.