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What's Next for Nuclear?

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What’s next for nuclear?  Possibly Queensland, Australia but not Fukushima, Japan.  After years of rejecting the idea, Australia is considering a nuclear energy plant.  What’s changed?  The technology for one; gone are the days of large-scale nuclear plants.  A new era of power generation welcomes small modular reactors (SMR) to the market.  NuScale wants to bring SMR Nuclear Technology to Australia and explained that with a small modular reactor less nuclear material is required, temperature regulation is better, initial costs are lower and because it can be installed underground it is less vulnerable to extreme weather and terrorist attacks.  

Record breaking heat earlier this year may have melted the hearts of previous opposers.  Soaring air-conditioner use overloaded electrical grids and caused widespread power failures. The authorities slowed and canceled trams to save power. Labor leaders called for laws that would require businesses to close when temperatures reached hazardous levels.  For 10 days in January temperatures were as high as 120 F.  As an alternative to blackouts, the Australian Parliament has launched a nuclear energy inquiry.  The inquiry by the standing committee will take a closer look at the economic, environmental and safety implications of nuclear power and report back within four months. 

Meanwhile, Fukushima Gov. Masao Uchibori will accept Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.'s recent decision to scrap the Fukushima Daini nuclear complex crippled by the March 2011 disaster.  The decision means all 10 nuclear reactors in the northeastern prefecture, including the six at the Fukushima Daiichi complex 12 kilometers from the Daini plant, will be scrapped.  Tomoaki Kobayakawa, the president of the utility, said, "I'm grateful that I received a certain degree of understanding. We will proceed (with the decommissioning) with a renewed sense of responsibility.” Storage of spent nuclear fuel has also reach capacity and efforts are being made to find a temporary solution. Perhaps the decision to decommission will pay off in the long run.  According to the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, almost all nuclear power plants built since the nuclear industry’s inception have generated large financial losses, averaging €4.8 billion ($5.4 billion) in losses.  Globally, nuclear power seems to be in decline, with little new investment.  Only four large-scale plants are under construction in Europe and North America, and all have suffered delays, cost blowouts or both. And to make matters worse, solar and wind construction costs continue to drop and nuclear power construction costs have nearly doubled since 2015.  By meeting the demand and lowering costs, can small modular reactors gain acceptance and become the new norm in nuclear energy?  Will this new technology change the game for nuclear energy? 

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Aug 14, 2019 12:18 pm GMT

Record breaking heat earlier this year may have melted the hearts of previous opposers.  Soaring air-conditioner use overloaded electrical grids and caused widespread power failures. 

This is an interesting thought, but even when we reach record heat and it pushes demand to new peaks, I would hope that the decision makers in the energy industry don't see that as truly new information that's changing the few on what energy sources should be used. While it's true there are many pushes in energy efficiency and conservation, it's an established fact that demand will continue to grow as populations and economies grow. Reaching those new heights sooner because of high heat is also an inevitability at this point

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