“Japanese Crisis – The Future of Nuclear Industry”

Article for Blog Post Writing Competition 2011 | by Aniket Pandey


May 20th, 20116:37 pm


Introduction

Forget wind. Forget solar. Forget green energy. Japan’s nuclear disaster will only intensify the global race for cheap fossil fuels while most future energy R&D will go into nuclear safety.

-Benny Peiser

It was on 11 March 2011 when an earthquake of 9 Richter scale magnitude following tsunami hit the north east coast of Japan causing havoc and aftermath costing lives of approx 15 thousand and about 14 thousand missing. It was one of the most destructive earthquakes ever which has consequently resulted not only economic crisis but also introduced nuclear power crisis in Japan. But this was not the least as the earthquake following with the tsunami also destroyed the  Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant,, also known as Fukushima Dai-ichi, is a disabled nuclear power plant located on a 3.5-square-kilometre site[1] in the towns of Okuma and Futaba in the Futaba District, Japan. First commissioned in 1971, the plant consists of six boiling water reactors (BWR). The plant suffered major damage from the 9.0 earthquakes and subsequent tsunami that hit Japan, disabling the reactor cooling systems, leading to nuclear radiation leaks and triggering a 20 km evacuation zone surrounding the plant, and is not expected to reopen.

However, the major concern is regarding future nuclear industry and development of nuclear power plant worldwide and whether these plants are really safe to generate power and if so on what grounds. The explosion in the first reactor, second, and third in Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor, Japan, has got the world’s attention to the sustainability of nuclear power. The explosion that triggered the failure of the cooling system caused by the earthquake and tsunami has raised concerns for the nuclear industry investors. No exception, countries that are planning development. The Japanese government has assured its people that the health hazards arising from the disposal of radioactive steam was very low. [2]

IMPACT ON NUCLEAR INDUSTRY [3]

Concerns over global warming and energy demand in recent years have brought about a nuclear revival. Total of 56 nuclear reactors were built in 2010, in the Asia Pacific region including China, India, Korea, and Taiwan has more than half of this power project. Several other countries in the oil-rich Middle East, the developing countries in South Asia and Asia Pacific, as well as developed countries in North America and Europe have developed a serious plan for the construction of nuclear plants.

This shows the future of some players such as nuclear giant Areva, GE-Hitachi, and Toshiba-Westinghouse looks very bright. Other global players including Doosan of Korea, Russia’s Rosatom hopes to reach an agreement with local government. Meanwhile it is difficult to assess the impact of events that are still ongoing. However, some short-term effects may occur, such as:

1. Reviewing the safety of Nuclear Power Plants

Review of the safety of all Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) operating, whether they are in an earthquake prone zone or not, tend to be reviewed comprehensively. Many more the risk scenarios, more better. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will likely play a big role in this salvation.

2. Cost of insurance to go up

The next impact is the cost of insurance. Insurance costs of all matters relating to nuclear would increase consequently raising the cost of electricity.

3. Postponement of New  Nuclear Power Plants

Plans to build nuclear states are now facing the possibility of much opposition. Germany has announced a three-month postponement of the plan. Some countries are also likely to announce a review of nuclear policy, especially if the crisis in Japan last long.

4. Stock market to suffer huge losses

The stock market nuclear technology companies and their supporters also tend to experience huge losses. Shares of General Electric, the supplier of the reactor at the Fukushima have experienced a significant loss.

5. Change in General public perception

Another impact is the public perception. Public perception of nuclear power will be bad, at least in the short term. This means that governments around the world will suspend nuclear related several important decisions, until news is reduced.

6. Shift to alternate power sources

Disasters in Japan will encourage the shift of attention to alternative technologies, such as hydropower generation and clean coal. More specifically, the development of clean coal technologies such as Carbon Capture and sequestration (CCS) and Integrated gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) would be an advantage.

WORLD REACTIONS [4]

1. The Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd. (NPCIL), the country’s monopoly nuclear power   producer, said the events in Japan had prompted a safety review. NPCIL operates 20 reactors with an installed capacity of 4,780 MW and the sector, estimated at about $150 billion over the next 15 years, is tightly controlled by the government. Indian officials and industry said the government could now face calls to go slow on nuclear power and push renewable sources. “What could now happen is the government will have to go slow with focus now more on greater scrutiny, robust safeguards, and site selection.

2. Germany decided to shut down all nuclear reactors made before 1976.

3. France stated that a similar scenario of earthquake/tsunami cannot occur in France

4. Canada stated that CANDU reactors are free from these troubles due to heavy water.

5. UK uses Gas Cooled Reactors, passively cooled systems

6. USA conducted an inspection of all of its nuclear power plants and declared them safe

7. China made a statement that her nuclear power plants use advanced technology and hence not prone to these types of incidents.

ANALYSIS OF THE FUTURE NUCLEAR INDUSTRY

Although renewable energy sources such as wind and solar have been touted as the answer to the world’s desire for cleaner, more sustainable sources of energy, these technologies are years away from matching the reliability, efficiency and scale of energy production that nuclear power provides. One significant point made by nuclear power proponents, including environmentalists who see the value in nuclear energy as an alternative to fossil fuels, is that today’s new reactors are much safer than those at Three Mile Island or Chernobyl or even Fukushima, although it first came on line in 1996, construction began in 1972. The major underlying factor for the recent revival of the nuclear industry is the global push toward fossil fuel alternatives as governments strive to address issues of climate change and air pollution. And that factor is not going away. In fact, the Japan nuclear crisis has sent shares in the renewable energy industry rising, especially in the solar sector, as investors speculate that the disaster will force governments to abandon nuclear for renewable energy, evidence of a commitment to moving away from fossil fuels. However, in reality, renewable energy technologies are not yet capable of matching global energy demands diverted from nuclear power-generated sources, leaving cheaper coal-burning plants as the only viable alternative to nuclear. Such a prospect is highly concerning to those who value nuclear power as a major player in substantially reducing the amount of carbon emissions created by the world’s hunger for energy. According to the IEA, nuclear power was responsible for approximately 13.5 percent of global electricity generation in 2008. It is very difficult (to fight global warming), even impossible, without using nuclear power. [5]

However, nuclear power will definitely come back because it is a necessary technology to achieve sustainability for the future. Due consideration is to be given to the hundreds of billions of dollars governments have invested in existing reactors and plants under construction, “the accident in Japan is not a death sentence for nuclear power.” Indeed there will be a nuclear expansion due to the effect of global warming — it’s a necessity.” [6]The revival may now be in doubt, but leading environmentalists who have backed the technology as a low-carbon alternative to fossil fuels said the accident should not slow new nuclear investment.

CONCLUSION

We have seen the return of the nuclear power industry after Three Mile disaster in the United States and Chrenobyl in Ukraine, despite having to go through a long road to recovery phase. If plans are properly implemented, nuclear reactors are very safe. However, right technology and correct procedures has to be used. Chances of a nuclear explosion are always zero and it is physically impossible and all the incidents till date have occurred due to human error.

Although if the Japanese government managed to anticipate the damage and maintain public trust, it is possible Fukushima nuclear power plant and the global nuclear industry will be able to get through the worst crisis in history. Conversely, if the Fukushima situation uncontrolled, nuclear industry will likely experience a big problem, at least for the short and medium term.

This crisis will bring some important lessons for the nuclear industry, among which should improve security in the design, operation, and maintenance. The cost of building and operating nuclear power plant can be increased significantly, but the industry will not disappear from the market.

There is a monstrous myth about nuclear power. I would make a strong guess that of the tens of thousands of people killed in Japan, none of them will be from nuclear power.”

-The scientist James Lovelock

REFERENCES

1. Tepco site (Japanese). One Week Plant Grounds Course

2. “Japan Earthquake Update”. IAEA. 19 March 2011. http://www.iaea.org/newscenter/news/2011/fukushimafull.html.

3. Izzo, Phil. “Economists React: If Worst Happens in Japan, All Bets Are Off” Wall Street Journal. 3/15/2011
http://blogs.wsj.com/economics/2011/03/15/economists-react-if-worst-happens-in-japan-all-bets-are-off/

4. Nuclear industry is in hardest time after Japan disaster, Impact on Nuclear Industry, http://www.dnewsglobal.com/japan-disaster-bring-nuclear-industry/3862.html

5. Japan’s Nuclear Tribulations The Global Impact, By Dr. Ugur GUVEN Aerospace Engineer, Nuclear Science and Technology Engineer ,GA TRIGA / MARK II Nuclear Reactor Certification

6. The Nuclear Power Industry Will Survive the Japan Crisis, By MelissaPistilli  http://www.ibtimes.com/articles/124319/20110318/nuclear-power-industry-will-survive-the-japan-crisis.htm#ixzz1JKkYPXTT

Article by-

Aniket Pandey

Student, BBA(LLB) Corporate laws

University of Petroleum and Energy Studies, Dehradun

[Submitted as an entry for the MightyLaws.in Blog Post Writing Competition, 2011]

 

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