The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry Fukushima Chernobyl Mayak Three Mile Island Atomic Testing Radiation Isotope

China’s nuclear power ambitions face delays, waste problems, and the growing success of renewables

It’s a pity that nuclear energy is so easily described as “climate-friendly”. Yes, the actual nuclear reactor can be said to be cutting carbon emissions. But why does everyone ignore the huge carbon emissions from the entire nuclear fuel chain, from uranium mining through to burial of radioactive wastes? Why ignore the emissions of ionising radiation, another unseen, but dangerous pollutant?

And why ignore climate change’s effects on nuclear power? Far from nuclear energy stopping global heating, it’s more likely that global heating will stop nuclear power. Nuclear is highly water-guzzling, so most reactors are perched neat the sea, or near rivers – meaning in danger of sea level rise, as well as other extremes such as hurricanes. The water requirements mean that nuclear is affected by extreme heat – and plants have to cut down, or even shut down.

The nuclear propagandists now tote “small” nuclear reactors, which would be even more useless as the planet heats.


China to Dominate Nuclear as Beijing Bets on Homegrown Reactors 
China probably won’t hit its nuclear energy target this year, but that’s unlikely to derail a broader ambition to become the planet’s chief proponent of the  climate-friendly  [what!!]   fuel
Bloomberg, 1 June 20

In the meantime, China looks like it’ll miss its goal of 58 gigawatts of nuclear by the end of this year. Why that is, as with virtually every recent stumble associated with atomic energy, dates to the catastrophe at Fukushima in Japan nine years ago, which has slowed new projects and halted approval….
New plants, or adding reactors at existing facilities, takes years to plan and construct, and a three-year freeze on approvals that ended in 2019 has thinned the pipeline for this decade, according to BloombergNEF’s lead nuclear analyst, Chris Gadomski…….
Obstacles? So what could upset the predictions? While China’s vast bureaucracy and competing fiefdoms create their own risks around the number and pace of approvals, among external pressures, the coronavirus looms large. Reduced power demand due to China’s lockdown earlier in the year has already seen CGN Power delay projects and cut spending for 2020.  Further waves of infection unchecked by a vaccine would only see the industry hunker down even more, and could throw its longer term goals into doubt. And then there’s the potential for public opposition to nuclear, which has hobbled the restart of Japan’s fleet of reactors. Protesters have successfully forestalled the industry’s spread inland from coastal areas, and a nuclear fuel factory in  Guangdong province was canceled in 2013 amid local opposition. The effective disposal of nuclear waste remains a concern, with the development of a site in Jiangsu halted in 2016 after drawing protests. But the resistance to nuclear has died down somewhat in recent years.
So perhaps the biggest threat comes from elsewhere in China’s clean energy stable. The nation’s growing expertise and emphasis on solar and wind power, and the chunky up-front costs for nuclear and its troubled safety record, suggest that if atomic energy does end up taking a backseat, it could be due to the broader success of renewable energy.Which brings the discussion back to technology. New reactors “will need to offer the benefits of being cheaper, safer and smaller, and perceived as complementary to renewables,” said BNEF’s Gadomski.

June 2, 2020 - Posted by | China, politics

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