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Archive for the ‘nuclear energy’ Category

Is Nuclear Energy Cost-Effective?

Posted by K.E. White on June 22, 2011

Is the real problem with nuclear energy not its low-probability/high cost disasters (read Japan’s $245 billion nuclear catastrophe), but its cost-effectiveness?

John Farrell, at Renewable Energy World, makes that argument.  He argues that nuclear is actually third most expensive source of energy, and makes the case for investing in renewable energy.  He has nice graphs, but most of the analysis rests on one 2009 study from the Institute for Energy and the Environment at Vermont Law School.

On the other hand, the World Nuclear Association, looking at US electricity costs, argues that nuclear is cheaper than coal, gas and oil energy.

And then there’s still recent study from PriceWaterhouseCoopers that found Sweden’s hydro and nuclear energy production far more cost-effective than looking to wind energy.

But in any case, forecasting future costs of energy might be beside the point:  the real is, what happens when nuclear energy is cut out?

First, here’s a graph that shows the significant role nuclear, coal and natural gas play in America’s energy portfolio. (Naturally, driving eats up most of America’s petroleum consumption.)

And then Germany’s nuclear phase-out will lead Germany to rely more on gas and oil, increasing CO2 emissions.  But, owing to Europe’s carbon trading scheme, this could in turn spur Europe to turn to cleaner sources of energy.  Whether the increased push for renewable will lead, long-term, to a cleaner future faster than with nuclear in the mix is still unclear.

But, finally, one caveat should be noted:  the Gulf Oil Spill cost approx. $40 billion–or 1/5 the cost of Japan’s nuclear disaster.  Now, in 2007, the United States spent $1.233 trillion on energy.

The numbers are there; and policy-makers will have to decide whether the cost of not using nuclear energy outweighs the danger of a low-probability/high-cost nuclear accident.  But, at least in the United States where there is no cap and trade system, nuclear energy will seem to beat out renewable energy sources in the near-term when it comes to quickly generating energy and lowering America’s carbon imprint.

Posted in nuclear energy | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Nuclear Power, Politics and Law: The Bumpy Road to Phasing Out Germany’s Nuclear Industry

Posted by K.E. White on June 21, 2011

Will constitutional law stop Germany from heading towards a nuke-free future?

No, but it may put a steep price-tag on it.

Last month, reacting to Japan’s March 2011 nuclear catastrophe and a shocking electoral shellacking in Baden-Wuerttemberg, Chancellor Angela Merkel announced plans to phase out nuclear energy as soon as possible.

The result?  Even worse political fortunes, and—now—the risk of paying billions in damages to Germany’s nuclear industry.

E.On, the world’s largest investor held energy service provider, announced last Friday that it would challenge the bundle of nuclear energy proposals recently made law in Germany.

And yesterday, E.On released a legal memo crafted by Gleiss Lutz detailing their claims against the government.  Specifically, the memo argues that E-on should be compensated for the German government’s illegal expropriation of their property.  Deutshe-Welle explains the reasoning of the possible suit:

The reasoning behind the claim focuses on the amount of electricity from nuclear power that energy companies would be allowed to generate before they are shut down.

Lawyers for the companies reportedly argue that these remaining kilowatt hours – to be produced in the future – are the property of the energy companies and are therefore protected as proprietary rights of ownership by the German constitution.

The amount of money at stake?  According to Eon’s Friday press release, “billions of Euros.”

Whatever the merits, this case shows the  difficulties countries may have in rapidly phasing out nuclear energy.  Furthermore, it suggests Merkel’s awkward political 180 will stay in the news for weeks to come.

This commentator has no knowledge of German property law; but, if EU law, is any guide–this property suit may have some trouble.  (The German constitution’s  Art. 14 has similar language).   Art. 17 of the EU Charter specifically states:

No one may be deprived of his or her possessions, except in the public interest and in the cases and under the conditions provided for by law, subject to fair compensation being paid in good time for their loss.

Now the “fair compensation” may seem like an easy hook.  But one case made clear that one isn’t deprived of their possessions by simply restricting their uses (for example, telling a person who bought a wineyard that they haven’t been “deprived” after EU law banned such a use, because they could always use it to sit on and enjoy–at a steep economic cost).

Now here, if the property being dealt with is unused kilowatt hours, deprivation may be more easily proven.  But, then again, the “public interest” prong is likely much more compelling.

And there’s always the business-risk argument:  When a private industry takes the chance–as did small coal producers before the advent of the ECSC–it knows there’s an always present risk that regulatory guidelines may come down that drive them out of business.  It seems here, while E-On could argue they can met every reasonable safety precaution and could not foresee such a quick change in Germany’s energy policy.  But the Greens have discussed knocking out nuclear energy, and there’s always the inherent risk of nuclear technology to argue the industry should have always known a regulatory ban could come at any time.

And while there are due process concerns, the phase out is not immediate: rather it lays down a 10-year plan (the really meeting the severe due process concerns at play in the Kadi case where a person placed on a UN sanctions list could not receive any of his funds to play for basic living expenses while he was challenging this designation.).

Hence, if German case-law has a similar trajectory to EU law the case could be in trouble.

In any case, it’s a fun case to map out, and a case with huge consequences for the German government and E.On.

If anyone can find the actual the Gleiss Lutz legal opinion, released yesterday, detailing  Eon’s legal claims (in English), I’d be very appreciative.

Posted in Germany, nuclear energy | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Chicago Tribune: ‘West is urged to accept Iran’s nuclear program’

Posted by proliferationpr on December 11, 2008

Attention-grabbing headline, though a bit misleading—the next line reads: ‘Arms-control expert says goal should be stopping Tehran from building a bomb

So is the best way to stop an Iranian nuclear bomb to accept Iranian enrichment of uranium and nuclear-energy production: thereby giving Iran the raw materials nessecary for nuclear weapons?

The Tribune brings attention to a recent IISS report  (download PDF here or read summary text without download) by Mark Fitzpatrick calling on Western nations shift their diplomatic energies from stopping Iran’s nuclear energy program to stymieing an Iranian nuclear weapons program.

 I would comment on the report, unfortunately it demands a reader’s fee. But my first reactions to such a shift in strategy are as follows:

1)      Isn’t the real problem in the Iranian nuclear dilemma the threat of Israel preemptively attacking Iran’s nuclear facilities? Would shifting U.S. foreign policy away from Iran’s nuclear enrichment only further the likelihood of such an attack?

2)      Fitzgerald’s approach seems very similar to the approach taken by Western nations towards India and Pakistan’s nuclear programs throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Though there is an important difference: Iran remains a member of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty—concerned nations offering diplomatic leverage over Iran. Also the gradual evolution from ‘latent’ to ‘active’ nuclear weapons capability did provide time for the international system to respond, and in the case of Iran might hold out the following possibility: in five to ten years, the Iranian regime may look very different than it does today. And shifting focus from Iran’s nuclear energy program would play well to Iranian citizens, currently supporting what they believe to be their country’s fight for sovereignty and energy independence.

3)      President-Elect Obama’s task: To resolutely combat Iran’s nuclear program, while designing a new and appealing diplomatic posture towards Iran while preparing the American public for a world with another latent nuclear power. Iran successfully testing a nuclear bomb could very well box-in Obama’s ambitious foreign and domestic policies, mirroring the campaign against Truman when China went Communist under his watch. And such a Iran debacle comes with this added thorn: an anxious Israel one-step away from launching air-strikes against Iranian nuclear targets.    

The IISS report mirrors suggestions by IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei, who holds out hope that Obama can turn the tide on what he considers the Bush administration’s failed approach towards Iran. From the Global Security Newswire:

International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei last week said the international community has failed to contain Iranian atomic activities that could support a nuclear weapons program, the Los Angeles Times reported (see GSN, Dec. 4).
Iran has endured economic isolation over its nuclear drive but has repeatedly rejected offers of economic and security benefits to halt its disputed nuclear work, which it defends as strictly peaceful.
“We haven’t really moved one inch toward addressing the issues,” ElBaradei told the newspaper. “I think so far the policy has been a failure.”
Sanctions aimed at punishing Tehran’s defiance have ultimately contributed to “more hardening of the position of Iran,” he said. “Many Iranians who even dislike the regime (are) gathering around the regime because they feel that country is under siege.”
However, ElBaradei added that U.S. President-elect Barack Obama has offered “lots of hope” by expressing willingness to diplomatically engage U.S. antagonists such as Iran and by making worldwide nuclear disarmament a goal of his political party.
“He is ready to talk to his adversaries, enemies, if you like, including Iran, also (North) Korea,” ElBaradei said, arguing that President George W. Bush has been slow to engage international foes. “To continue to pound the table and say, ‘I am not going to talk to you,’ and act in a sort of a very condescending way — that exaggerates problems.”
ElBaradei suggested that Washington and Tehran could launch talks addressing the nuclear dispute along with other points of contention dating back decades (Borzou Daragahi, Los Angeles Times, Dec. 6).

Posted in Iran, nuclear energy, Nuclear Weapons | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Irish Nuclear-Free Zone? Ministers Make Joint Appeal Against British Nuclear Energy Plans

Posted by K.E. White on February 3, 2008

From BBC News:

Social Development Minister Margaret Ritchie and Irish Environment Minister John Gormley made a joint call.

They are concerned about proposals to include nuclear power as a means of reducing the UK‘s carbon footprint.

“It is bad enough having a nuclear threat off our shores. We should not contemplate having one within our shores,” Ms Ritchie, SDLP, said.

“The shift back towards a nuclear power energy policy in Great Britain greatly concerns me, especially given its close proximity.

Quick Historical Note: The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) came out of a 1958 Irish proposal that aimed to freeze nuclear weapons proliferation.

Posted in Britain, Ireland, Northern Ireland, NPT, Nuclear, nuclear energy | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

ASEAN Meeting Kicks Off: Nuclear Energy Plans Defended, Economic Integration Priority One

Posted by K.E. White on August 24, 2007

Summary: ASEAN started its three-day Manila meeting today, with two chief objectives: 1) implanting its long-awaited economic integrations plans and 2) reaffirming ASEAN’s nuclear energy plans.

Okay, so first some background on ASEAN from Alalam:

ASEAN LogoASEAN includes Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

The bloc’s population is estimated at 500 million people and is comparable to the European Union’s market size.

Why the hubbub over nuclear power? Green Peace has criticized plans by Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam to construct nuclear power plants. The purported purpose? Cutting dependence on oil and natural gas.

The three nations plan to treat these plants, to be built over the next two decades, as an “ASEAN Power Grid”:

Jayakumar (Singapore Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security) said in his speech the 10-member bloc will also sign a memorandum of understanding on an ASEAN Power Grid that “provides the essential framework” for the region to implement the project.

The ASEAN Power Grid is an ambitious plan to connect member countries to ensure continued power supply whereby countries with surplus reserves can sell to a neighboring country. (Agence France-Presse)

Channel News Asia highlights Dr Piyasvasti Amranand—Thailand’s Energy Minister–defense of nuclear energy:

Piyasvasti Amranand“Nuclear is now coming back, there are probably about 30 nuclear plants under construction worldwide. If you are really concerned about global warming, I believe that nuclear is an option that should not be ignored,” said Dr Piyasvasti Amranand, Thailand’s Energy Minister.

“It would be totally irresponsible for any government to ignore nuclear because I do not believe that energy conservation or renewable energy alone can solve and reduce the emission of green house gases,” he added.

The ministers also stressed that these are but a range of options available.

Shin-Ho KangBesides nuclear energy plans, ASEAN also hopes to get its economic integration plans underway. The plans, meant to harmonize monetary and trade polices among ASEAN members, were unveiled in 2003. This 2006 speech by Dr. Shin-Ho Kang gives offers a digestible look at the reasons for and challenges to ASEAN economic cooperation (AEC).

AFX News Limited provides this AEC background:

The roadmap was largely completed and was both comprehensive and flexible enough to ‘allow us to modify this … to adjust to the vagaries of the global economy and political landscape.’

ASEAN, which includes Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, has set 2015 as the date for the establishment of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), an integrated grouping that will allow the region to compete with Asian giants China and India.

And Mathaba provides rest of ASEAN’s Manila slate:

They will also sign a key protocol regarding a deliberation of an import tariff cut on rice and sugar products some ASEAN members are not ready to cooperate within the given time frame, as well as another protocol on a cluster of logistics and transport services to boost the competitiveness of businesses.

In addition, the meeting will discuss with six dialogue partners including China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia, and New Zealand on progress in implementing the free trade area agreement. (TNA)

Posted in AEC, ASEAN, ASEAN Economic Community, ASEAN Power Grid, Green Peace, Manila, nuclear energy, Piyasvasti Amranand, Shin-Ho Kang | 1 Comment »

Containing the Nuclear Genie: Will Turkey Tap into Nuclear Power?

Posted by K.E. White on August 5, 2007

Turkey’s recently empowered AKP majority government might just dust off as till now dormant plans for a nuclear power program. If Turkey takes this step, will nuclear weapons be an inevitable outcome in the future? 

No—but that depends a lot on Iran. And Turkey may follow Iran’s nuclear trajectory, developing its nuclear weapons capability by asserting its right to pursue nuclear energy technology. 

From the Turkish Daily News:

Recent power and water cuts led to intensified calls to consider nuclear energy as a solution out of the current crisis, as temperatures are predicted to keep rising resulting in longer and hotter summers for the country. 

The Turkish capital woke up to dry taps yesterday as a result of dramatic rises in temperatures that have dried up water reservoirs, while power cuts remained restricted to a few cities in western Turkey. A series of interruptions in energy supplies prompted both fears of regular blackout and debates over the government’s energy policy.  

Earth Times, citing the Turkish Daily News, gives more detail to Turkey’s still manageable energy woes: 

The Turkish Daily News reports the country’s average appetite will be 190 billion kilowatt hours this year, up from 176 billion kwh last year, which was an 8.4-percent increase from 2005.

Turkey’s energy minister says cuts to supply will be limited to a handful of areas, not mass cuts countrywide.

 But the Turkey still categorically rules out a nuclear weapons program:

 We believe that states of the region should terminate their efforts for developing such weapons and their delivery means and, become party to the non-proliferation regimes and treaties as soon as possible. In this respect, the need for a WMD-free zone in the Middle East is of paramount importance.

Turkey does not possess WMD and does not intend to have them in the future. Turkey adheres to all major international treaties, arrangements and regimes regarding non-proliferation of those weapons and their delivery means, and actively participates and supports all efforts pertaining to non-proliferation in the NATO.

In line with our non-proliferation policies, we are committed to the goal of extensive and complete disarmament of WMD under strict and effective international control. In our view, success in disarmament and arms control initiatives primarily depends on the creation of a political atmosphere inspiring confidence. (Turkish General Staff website)

But an earlier section of this policy statement merits attention:

As it is known, Turkey is situated in a region having an inclination to the proliferation of WMD and their delivery means. Some of our neighbours, who are not parties to the regimes or organizations aiming at preventing the proliferation of WMD, are attempting to develop these weapons. These dangerous attempts are being observed closely and anxiously.

Turkey—a member of NATO and strong US partner—is not now pursuing a nuclear weapons program. 

But this policy is based on a critical premise: that the Middle East remains nuclear free. While this region did not hit a tipping point with Israel ‘non-existent existent’ nuclear deterrent, Iran’s developing nuclear program risks setting off nuclear weapons proliferation throughout the region. 

And while a nuclear armed Middle East could bring Cold War era stability, this outcome comes with a grave risk: nuclear weapons entrusted to slippery hands. 

Fragile regimes + strong currents of radicalism + nuclear weapons = greater global security? 


Posted in AKP, Foreign Policy, Iran, Nuclear, nuclear energy, Nuclear Weapons, Turkey, WMD | Leave a Comment »