Global Nuclear Status Report 2010

Monday, August 15, 2011 @ 06:08 PM gHale

Aside from three countries, there are no signs of fundamental changes in the planning and development of nuclear power worldwide after the disaster in Japan.

Of those three countries, Germany, Switzerland and Italy, only Germany did an about face and decided to phase out nuclear power. Italy had already decided to walk away from nuclear power and Switzerland decided to suspend expansion of nuclear power, according to Risø DTU’s eighth annual report entitled, “Nuclear power and Nuclear Safety.” Risø DTU is the national laboratory for sustainable energy in Denmark.

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The report gives a global overview of nuclear energy with a focus on safety and preparedness. This year’s report suffered from a delay because of the disaster in Fukushima, which is now in the report which would normally cover only the year 2010.

“The report was almost ready to be issued, but after the accident we didn’t think it made sense to send it out without mentioning the accident in Japan,” said Bent Lauritzen, Head of Programme in the Radiation Research Division at Risø DTU. “Therefore, we have subsequently added a section to the report describing the development of the accident in detail.”

The accident in Japan is still ongoing, and authorities do not expect that there will be full control of the plant until early 2012. Therefore, the report looks at the first weeks of the accident, while the final analysis of the entire accident will occur at a later date.

The worst accident to this date is still Chernobyl, but in many areas the Fukushima accident was worse for the reputation of nuclear power.

“The Chernobyl reactor was a special type, which already at that time was considered to be unstable,” Lauritzen said. “The accident happened due to crucial errors that were both human and caused by construction, and it didn’t meet the safety requirements of the Western world. With the light water reactors in Fukushima everything looks different. This type of reactor is the most widespread in the world right now, and nobody had counted on such a serious accident to happen.”

It has therefore also surprised many people in the Western world that the accident happened, but the combination of the largest earthquake ever measured in Japan, along with the 14-meter-high tsunami was apparently enough to rob the nuclear power plant of both power and cooling, with a total meltdown as a result.

“It is still too early to give an overall picture of the causes and consequences of the accident, as everything must first be analyzed. But the accident has already had the consequence that Germany soon after ‘did a U-turn’ and decided to phase out nuclear power entirely, Switzerland has suspended the expansion of nuclear power and in Italy, it was — at an already scheduled referendum — decided to say completely no to having nuclear energy,” Lauritzen said.

In the last few years it has looked like nuclear power was to experience a renaissance as a viable alternative to coal plants. Countries in Asia and particularly China, have begun to build new plants. In total 27 plants are under construction in China of 64 worldwide.
Stress testing of reactors in 2011

A direct consequence of the accident in Japan is the EU decided all nuclear plant should undergo a stress test in 2011. The purpose is not to see whether there is at all likelihood that a similar accident will occur, but to find out how reactors will cope if there is a total failure of power supply and cooling water.

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