Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Is it all over for nuclear power?

The Features Editor, Michael Brooks, of the prestigious New Scientist magazine seems to think so, in an article in the current issue.

He quotes a January Standard & Poors report saying that even the new incentives for the US nuclear industry will not be enough to persuade investors to climb aboard; from a business perspective, nuclear remains the highest-risk form of power generation.

He criticises the European Pressurised Reactor (EPR) at Olkiluoto, Finland, the only nuclear power station presently under construction in Europe. A relatively new design of pressurised water reactor, the EPR is being built jointly by the French nuclear company Areva and the German company Siemens, and is being financed at extremely low rates of interest by French and German state-owned organisations.

The scheme is being investigated by the European Commission, following a complaint by the European Renewable Energies Federation that the financing breaches the commission's rules.

If the complaint is upheld, it will be a serious blow to the nuclear industry, which likes to point to Olkiluoto as evidence of the
viability of new nuclear stations.

Additionally, the company the plant is being built for, called TVO, is not a conventional electricity utility, but a company owned by large Finnish industrial concerns that supplies electricity to its owners on a not-for-profit basis. The sums wouldn't add up for any other project.

Brooks concludes "Nuclear power continues to prompt concerns based on safety issues, regulatory problems and the danger that it encourages proliferation of nuclear materials and weapons. Now it also faces a bigger hurdle: there are better economic options that are no less climate-friendly."

>> Read the full article as a PDF

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