Monday, March 12, 2012
Nuclear power only possible with state backing.
'The Dream that failed' is the headline of the special report on nuclear energy in The Economist.Despite generous government research-and-development programmes stretching back decades, a new spring for nuclear does not look likely. The Economist says
"Innovation tends to thrive where many designs can compete against each other, where newcomers can get into the game easily, where regulation is light. Some renewable-energy technologies meet these criteria, and are getting cheaper as a result. But there is no obvious way for nuclear power to do so. Proponents say small, mass-produced reactors would avoid some of the problems of today’s behemoths. But for true innovation such reactors would need a large market in which to compete against each other. Such a market does not exist."
It is interesting that one of the reasons for why such markets don't exist any longer is the kind of de-regulation that The Economist has promoted for decades, and which most governments have adopted. It is then only logic that it is almost only in countries where the government is regulating heavy that nuclear power has a future, for example in China. But not even in China is the future that bright. The Chinese plan to install more wind power than nuclear power the decades to come. But China is simply so weary of its energy future that it makes bets on all sorts of energy, well knowing that many of them will fail, and that NO energy source can quench the thirst of a business as usual Chinese expansion.
The journal has also a realistic take on safety, giving some credit to those that highlighted the dangers: 'nuclear plants can be kept safe only by constantly worrying about their dangers'.
Usually, techno-optimist the Economist, dismiss putting much faith in heavily promoted Generation III or Generation IV nuclear power plants. The fundamentals are simply not there and in more than fifty year, despite enormous money spent on research there have been no major break through for practical workable solutions, just a lot of hyped "new" technologies that never result in any commercially viable solutions.
The Economist concludes that renewable energy is likely to play a much bigger role than nuclear in the future. Energy from renewable sources has also become much cheaper as new technologies develop and innovations come into play - while nuclear energy is just getting more and more expensive for every year.
And still we are not really calculating the true price for that technology. The costs for keeping storage for thousands of years are obviously not at all covered by anybody today. In the end they will end up neglected like other tombs for eternity, such as the pyramid - and then at a certain point tomb raiders, or some kids will fall into them....