Japan Disaster May Hold Lessons for Haves and Have-Nots

13.03.2011 - Tokyo - Radio Netherlands

The front runners were Iran, United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Italy, Vietnam and Jordan. But discussions in Germany, another highly industrialised country, indicate that nuclear meltdowns in Japan, have given a shot in the arm to the country’s anti-atom movement.

It has increased pressure on the German government not only to reverse its decision to put an end to the phasing out of nuclear energy but to switch off nuclear power plants.

This will not happen overnight because Germany obtains one quarter of its electricity from nuclear energy, using 17 reactors. A coalition government formed after the 1998 federal elections had the phasing out of nuclear energy as a feature of its policy. With a new government in power in 2009, the phase-out has been canceled.

However, Chancellor Angela Merkel said after meeting on March 12 of senior cabinet ministers and nuclear experts: *”We know how safe our plants are and that we do not face a threat from such a serious earthquake or violent tidal wave.”*

*”But we will learn what we can from the events in Japan, and in the coming days and weeks will follow closely what the analysis yields,”* she added.

German Environment Minister Norbert Roettgen said Germany’s nuclear safety systems would have to be analyzed in the light of the Japanese incident. *”This happened in a country with very high safety standards. That is why we are taking it extremely seriously,”* he said in an interview on March 12.

*”We have to find out and analyze how it could have come to this. The fundamental question of whether we can guard against all dangers is now open again, and we will address that question.”*

**ELECTRICITY DEMAND**

According to the World Nuclear News (WNN) report on March 4, 2011, despite the large number of emerging countries vying for nuclear power, *”they are not expected to contribute very much to the expansion of nuclear capacity in the foreseeable future — the main growth will come in countries where the technology is already well established.”*

However, the report added, in the longer term, the trend to urbanization in less-developed countries will greatly increase the demand for electricity, and especially that supplied by base-load plants such as nuclear. *”The pattern of energy demand in these countries will become more like that of Europe, North America and Japan,”* the WNN report predicted.

A September 2010 report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on International Status and Prospects of Nuclear Power said that some 65 countries without nuclear power plants *”are expressing interest in, considering or actively planning for nuclear power”* after a *”gap of nearly 15 years”* in such interest worldwide.

Of these 65 un-named countries, it said, 21 were in Asia/Pacific, 21 in Africa, 12 in Europe (mostly eastern Europe), and 11 in Latin America. However, of the 65 interested countries, 31 were not currently planning to build reactors, and 17 of those 31 had grids of less than 5 GW, *”too small to accommodate most of the reactor designs on offer.”*

The report added that technology options may also be limited for countries whose grids are between 5 GW and 10 GW.

Of the countries planning reactors, according to the September 2010 report, *”14 indicate a strong intention to proceed with introduction of nuclear power; seven are preparing but haven’t made a final decision, 10 have taken a decision and are preparing infrastructure, two have ordered a new nuclear power plant and one has a plant under construction”*.

In all countries governments need to create the environment for investment in nuclear power, including professional and independent regulatory regime, policies on nuclear waste management and decommissioning, and involvement with international non-proliferation measures and insurance arrangements for third party damage, the report said.

The WNN report says that institutional arrangements vary from one country to another. *”Usually governments are heavily involved in planning, and in developing countries also financing and operation. As emerging nuclear nations lack a strong cadre of nuclear engineers and scientists, construction is often on a turnkey basis.”*

*”With the reactor vendor assuming all technical and commercial risks in delivering a functioning plant on time and at a particular price. Alternatively the vendor may be set up a consortium to build, own and operate the plant. As the industry becomes more international, new arrangements are likely, including public-private partnerships,”* the report adds.

The IAEA published a small book titled ‘Considerations to Launch a Nuclear Power Programme’ in 2007 which addresses the issues involved in a country deciding upon and implementing a nuclear power program. In particular it looks at those considerations before a decision is made, before construction starts and subsequently. It then briefly covers twelve factors for consideration.

According to the IAEA in mid 2010, 20 new countries were expected to have nuclear power on line by 2030.

In 2009 the IAEA began offering Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review (INIR) missions to assess national developments. The first three were to Jordan, Indonesia and Vietnam.

For new entrants to the nuclear industry which are moving towards fuel loading in their first reactor, the World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO) offers pre-startup peer reviews.

In January 2008, the French Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) indicated that it would pay attention to new nuclear power projects in countries with no experience in this area. It said that the development of nuclear industry in a country needs at least 10 to 15 years in order to build up skills in safety and control and to define a regulatory framework.

**By Jutta Wolf**

Categories: Asia, Ecology and Environment, International, Opinions

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