ENERGY: by Peter WestmoreNews Weekly
Nuclear energy ... next generation power source
, March 6, 2010
It is highly significant that, within months of the failed Copenhagen Climate Change Summit, leaders of left-wing governments, in both the United States and the UK, have announced a reversal of long-standing policy on nuclear energy, making substantial commitments to nuclear power as the source of base-load electrical energy.
In the United States, President Barack Obama has reversed long-standing Democratic Party policy by approving substantial new loans for the construction of nuclear energy plants in the US.
He has followed up on his support for "a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants" in his State of the Union address in January, by proposing to triple public financing for nuclear power.
The US Department of Energy recently proposed $US36 billion in new federal loan guarantees on top of $US18.5 billion already budgeted - for a total of $US54.5 billion - which is expected to fund six or seven new power plants. The first of the new generation power stations is being built in the state of Georgia, backed by federal loans of $US8 billion.
In announcing the loan, the president made clear that this represented a change in direction for the US. He said, "There are 56 nuclear reactors under construction around the world: 21 in China alone; six in South Korea; five in India. And the commitment of these countries is not just generating the jobs in those plants; it's generating demand for expertise and new technologies."
He added, "It's a plant that will create thousands of construction jobs in the next few years, and some 800 permanent jobs - well-paying permanent jobs - in the years to come. And this is only the beginning. ... And we're going to have to build a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in America."
This reversed the position Barack Obama held during the presidential election campaign, when he opposed a plan by his Republican opponent, John McCain, to build 45 nuclear power plants by 2030. Obama, at the time, gave the excuse that nuclear power stations should not be built until the nuclear waste disposal problem was solved.
In Britain, the Labour Government of Gordon Brown faces the problem of having to replace ageing power stations from 2015, after having sold off its controlling stake in the British Energy Group to the French company, EDF. Mr Brown has promised to fast-track the construction of 10 nuclear power stations in Britain, using the Infrastructure Planning Commission to cut through red tape and environmental approval processes which would normally delay new projects for years.
The commission promises to get projects through to a decision in about a year.
The British Government specifically says that it intends to use nuclear energy because it has almost zero CO2 emissions, and will enable Britain to cut CO2 emissions, as required by the European Union's mandatory CO2 reduction targets.
EDF, Europe's largest electric power generator, has extensive experience in nuclear power generation, as most of France's energy comes from nuclear power.
In a statement in support of a new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point on England's west Somerset coast, EDF stated, "The Government's draft Nuclear National Policy Statement (NPS) emphasises the need for the UK to take account of the ability to develop new nuclear power stations significantly earlier than 2025 so to displace CO2, and achieve the Government's objective of achieving an electricity supply that is almost entirely 'decarbonised' by 2050."
It added, "Unless action is taken now to invest in new nuclear power stations, carbon emissions from electricity generation are likely to rise and energy security will be at increased risk. It is on this fundamental basis that EDF Energy believes there is a pressing need for new nuclear development. The proposed nuclear power development at Hinkley Point C will provide more than 6 per cent of the UK's electricity requirements. This will represent a significant contribution to the Government's energy policy aims in its own right."
In contrast to Britain and the United States, the Rudd Government has totally ruled out the nuclear option for Australia.
Mr Rudd declared recently that, instead, his Government was exploring the option of carbon capture and storage. Unfortunately, this technology has never been applied to power stations anywhere in the world, and remains little more than a laboratory curiosity.
In contrast, nuclear power has been refined over the past 50 years, to the point where it is the cleanest source of available energy, even taking into account the problems of nuclear waste disposal and plant decommissioning. The fact that the left-wing governments of Britain and the United States have embarked on a massive expansion of nuclear power generation shows that they regard these problems as manageable.