Nuclear energy policy

Nuclear energy policy

Nuclear energy policy is a national and international policy concerning some or all aspects of nuclear energy, such as mining for nuclear fuel, extraction and processing of nuclear fuel from the ore, generating electricity by nuclear power, enriching and storing spent nuclear fuel and nuclear fuel reprocessing.

Nuclear energy policies often include the regulation of energy use and standards relating to the nuclear fuel cycle. Other measures include efficiency standards, safety regulations, emission standards, fiscal policies, and legislation on energy trading, transport of nuclear waste and contaminated materials, and their storage. Governments might subsidize nuclear energy and arrange international treaties and trade agreements about the import and export of nuclear technology, electricity, nuclear waste, and uranium.

Following the March 2011 Fukushima I nuclear accidents, China, Germany, Switzerland, Israel, Malaysia, Thailand, United Kingdom, and the Philippines are reviewing their nuclear power programs. Indonesia and Vietnam still plan to build nuclear power plants.[1][2][3][4] Thirty-one countries operate nuclear power stations, and there are a considerable number of new reactors being built in China, South Korea, India, and Russia.[5] As of June 2011, countries such as Australia, Austria, Denmark, Greece, Ireland, Latvia, Lichtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Portugal, Israel, Malaysia, New Zealand, and Norway remain opposed to nuclear power.[6][7]

Since nuclear energy and nuclear weapons technologies are closely related, military aspirations can act as a factor in energy policy decisions. The fear of nuclear proliferation influences some international nuclear energy policies.


The global picture

The status of nuclear power globally in early 2009.
  Operating reactors, building new reactors
  Operating reactors, planning new build
  No reactors, building new reactors
  No reactors, planning new build
  Operating reactors, stable
  Operating reactors, considering phase-out
  Civil nuclear power is illegal
  No reactors

After 1986's Chernobyl disaster, public fear of nuclear power led to a virtual halt in reactor construction, and several countries decided to phase out nuclear power altogether.[8] However, increasing energy demand is beginning to require new sources of electric power, and rising fossil fuel prices coupled with new concerns about reducing greenhouse gas emissions (see Climate change mitigation) have sparked heightened interest in nuclear power and predictions of a nuclear renaissance (made possible in part by major improvements in nuclear reactor safety).[9]

As of 2007, 31 countries operated nuclear power plants.[10] Nuclear power tends to be found in nations connected to the largest electrical grids, and so the largest nations (or groups of them) such as China, India, the US, Russia and the European nations all utilize it (see graphic to right).[citation needed] The largest producer of nuclear capacity is the USA with 28% of worldwide capacity, followed by France (18%) and Japan (12%).[11] In 2007, there were 439 operating nuclear generating units throughout the world, with a total capacity of about 351 gigawatts.

According to the IAEA, as of September, 2008, nuclear power is projected to remain at a 12.4% to 14.4% share of the world's electricity production through 2030.[12]

Policy options

Nuclear concerns

Nuclear accidents and radioactive waste disposal are major concerns.[13] Other concerns include nuclear proliferation, the high cost of nuclear power plants, and nuclear terrorism.[13]

Energy security

For some countries, nuclear power affords energy independence. In the words of the French, "We have no coal, we have no oil, we have no gas, we have no choice."[14] Therefore, the discussion of a future for nuclear energy is intertwined with a discussion of energy security and the use of energy mix, including renewable energy development.[citation needed]

Nuclear power has been relatively unaffected by embargoes, and uranium is mined in "reliable" countries, including Australia and Canada.[14][15]

Nuclear energy renaissance

Since about 2001 the term "nuclear renaissance" has been used to refer to a possible nuclear power industry revival, driven by rising fossil fuel prices and new concerns about meeting greenhouse gas emission limits.[16] At the same time, various barriers to a nuclear renaissance have been identified. These include: unfavourable economics compared to other sources of energy, slowness in addressing climate change, industrial bottlenecks and personnel shortages in nuclear sector, and the unresolved nuclear waste issue. There are also concerns about more nuclear accidents, security, and nuclear weapons proliferation.[17][18][19][20][21]

New reactors under construction in Finland and France, which were meant to lead a nuclear renaissance, have been delayed and are running over-budget.[22][23][24] China has 27 new reactors under construction,[25] and there are also a considerable number of new reactors being built in South Korea, India, and Russia. At least 100 older and smaller reactors will "most probably be closed over the next 10-15 years".[5]

In March 2011 the nuclear emergencies at Japan's Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant and other nuclear facilities raised questions among some commentators over the future of the renaissance.[26][27][28][29][30] Following the Fukushima I accidents, the International Energy Agency halved its estimate of additional nuclear generating capacity to be built by 2035.[31] Platts has reported that "the crisis at Japan's Fukushima nuclear plants has prompted leading energy-consuming countries to review the safety of their existing reactors and cast doubt on the speed and scale of planned expansions around the world".[32]

A study by UBS, reported on April 12, predicts that around 30 nuclear plants may be closed world-wide, with those located in seismic zones or close to national boundaries being the most likely to shut. The analysts believe that 'even pro-nuclear counties such as France will be forced to close at least two reactors to demonstrate political action and restore the public acceptability of nuclear power', noting that the events at Fukushima 'cast doubt on the idea that even an advanced economy can master nuclear safety'.[33]

Policies by territory

Following the March 2011 Fukushima I nuclear accidents, China, Germany, Switzerland, Israel, Malaysia, Thailand, United Kingdom, and the Philippines are reviewing their nuclear power programs. Indonesia and Vietnam still plan to build nuclear power plants.[34][35][3][4] Countries such as Australia, Austria, Denmark, Greece, Ireland, Luxembourg, Portugal, New Zealand, and Norway remain opposed to nuclear power.[36]

See also


  1. ^ Jo Chandler (March 19, 2011). "Is this the end of the nuclear revival?". The Sydney Morning Herald. 
  2. ^ Aubrey Belford (March 17, 2011). "Indonesia to Continue Plans for Nuclear Power". New York Times. 
  3. ^ a b Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu: Japan situation has "caused me to reconsider" nuclear power Piers Morgan on CNN, published 2011-03-17, accessed 2011-03-17
  4. ^ a b Israeli PM cancels plan to build nuclear plant, published 2011-03-18, accessed 2011-03-17
  5. ^ a b Michael Dittmar. Taking stock of nuclear renaissance that never was Sydney Morning Herald, August 18, 2010.
  6. ^ "Nuclear power: When the steam clears". The Economist. March 24, 2011. 
  7. ^ Duroyan Fertl (June 5, 2011). "Germany: Nuclear power to be phased out by 2022". Green Left. 
  8. ^ Research and Markets: International Perspectives on Energy Policy and the Role of Nuclear Power Reuters, May 6, 2009.
  9. ^ "The Nuclear Renaissance". World Nuclear Association. September 2009. Retrieved 2010-06-20. 
  10. ^ Mycle Schneider, Steve Thomas, Antony Froggatt, Doug Koplow (August 2009). The World Nuclear Industry Status Report, German Federal Ministry of Environment, Nature Conservation and Reactor Safety, p. 6.
  11. ^ (PDF) Survey of energy resources. World Energy Council. 2004. Retrieved 2007-07-13. 
  12. ^ (PDF) Energy, Electricity and Nuclear Power Estimates for the Period up to 2030. International Atomic Energy Agency. September2008. Retrieved 2008-09-08. 
  13. ^ a b Brian Martin. Opposing nuclear power: past and present, Social Alternatives, Vol. 26, No. 2, Second Quarter 2007, pp. 43-47.
  14. ^ a b "Nuclear renaissance faces realities". Platts. (subscription required). Retrieved 2007-07-13. 
  15. ^ L. Meeus, K. Purchala, R. Belmans (PDF). Is it reliable to depend on import?. Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Departement of Electrical Engineering of the Faculty of Engineering. Retrieved 2007-07-13. 
  16. ^ The Nuclear Renaissance (by the World Nuclear Association)
  17. ^ Trevor Findlay. The Future of Nuclear Energy to 2030 and its Implications for Safety, Security and Nonproliferation February 4, 2010.
  18. ^ Allison Macfarlane (May 1, 2007 vol. 63 no. 3). "Obstacles to Nuclear Power". Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. pp. 24–25. 
  19. ^ Trevor Findlay (2010). The Future of Nuclear Energy to 2030 and its Implications for Safety, Security and Nonproliferation: Overview, The Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI), Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, pp. 10-11.
  20. ^ M.V. Ramana. Nuclear Power: Economic, Safety, Health, and Environmental Issues of Near-Term Technologies, Annual Review of Environment and Resources, 2009, 34, pp. 144-145.
  21. ^ International Energy Agency, World Energy Outlook, 2009, p. 160.
  22. ^ James Kanter. In Finland, Nuclear Renaissance Runs Into Trouble New York Times, May 28, 2009.
  23. ^ James Kanter. Is the Nuclear Renaissance Fizzling? Green, 29 May 2009.
  24. ^ Rob Broomby. Nuclear dawn delayed in Finland BBC News, 8 July 2009.
  25. ^ Nuclear Power in China
  26. ^ Nuclear Renaissance Threatened as Japan’s Reactor Struggles Bloomberg, published March 2011, accessed 2011-03-14
  27. ^ Analysis: Nuclear renaissance could fizzle after Japan quake Reuters, published 2011-03-14, accessed 2011-03-14
  28. ^ Japan nuclear woes cast shadow over U.S. energy policy Reuters, published 2011-03-13, accessed 2011-03-14
  29. ^ Nuclear winter? Quake casts new shadow on reactors MarketWatch, published 2011-03-14, accessed 2011-03-14
  30. ^ Will China's nuclear nerves fuel a boom in green energy? Channel 4, published 2011-03-17, accessed 2011-03-17
  31. ^ "Gauging the pressure". The Economist. 28 April 2011. 
  32. ^ "NEWS ANALYSIS: Japan crisis puts global nuclear expansion in doubt". Platts. 21 March 2011. 
  33. ^ Nucléaire : une trentaine de réacteurs dans le monde risquent d'être fermés Les Échos, published 2011-04-12, accessed 2011-04-15
  34. ^ Jo Chandler (March 19, 2011). "Is this the end of the nuclear revival?". The Sydney Morning Herald. 
  35. ^ Aubrey Belford (March 17, 2011). "Indonesia to Continue Plans for Nuclear Power". New York Times. 
  36. ^ "Nuclear power: When the steam clears". The Economist. March 24, 2011. 

Further reading

External links

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