Proliferation Press

A webpage devoted to tracking and analyzing current events related to the proliferation of WMD/CBRN.

Posts Tagged ‘energy’

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 »

UAE and South Korean Nuclear Regulatory Bodies Sign Nuclear Implementing Agreement

Posted by K.E. White on March 15, 2011

The potentially devastating nuclear crisis in Japan isn’t putting off the UAE’s nuclear plans.

Building off their 2009 nuclear facilities production agreement, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and South Korea nuclear regulatory bodies today signed a nuclear cooperation agreement.  What does the agreement do?  AMEInfo.com provides this answer:

Under this Implementing Arrangement between the two regulatory bodies, FANR and KINAC will exchange information, experience, staff and technology related to ensuring a peaceful nuclear programme under international non-proliferation obligations. It is based on a UAE-Republic of Korea Government-to-Government agreement signed in 2009.

In short, with the UAE having a Korean consortium led by Korea Electric Power Corporation (Kepco) to build four reactors, the UAE must development effective measures to track nuclear materials and secure these new faculties.

From The National:

“This is important in terms of the experience of the Korean regulator in regulating the Korean reactors and plants in Korea,” said Hamad al Kaabi, the UAE representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency, a global nuclear watchdog based in Vienna. “The goal is to develop capabilities.”

The UAE, like other nations in the region including Saudi Arabia, is counting on nuclear power to help meet growing electricity demand as well as free up oil and gas currently used for power generation to more lucrative uses, such as exports of petrochemicals. Abu Dhabi hopes nuclear power will provide a quarter of its of its electricity within the next decade.

Is the UAE ignoring the lessons of Japan’s current nuclear crisis?  Perhaps.  But, as James M. Acton argues at ForeignPolicy.com, nuclear energy is worth the risk if done prudently.  And part of responsible nuclear energy generation must be safely securing facilities from natural and man-made disasters, and preventing nuclear materials from slipping into the wrong hands.

Posted in News | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

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 »

Proliferation Press Roundup: The Nuclear Energy Boom

Posted by K.E. White on February 2, 2008

The world’s energy are ensuring the proliferation of nuclear energy technology—suggesting an easier path for many nations to develop nuclear weapons. The deals will test the IAEA’s ability to foster nuclear cooperation, while ensuring dangerous materials remain safe and nations remain honest about their nuclear intentions. 

IAEA ElBaradei  talks nuclear energy cooperation with Egypt:

During his week-long visit to Egypt, ElBaradei is scheduled to meet with a number of senior officials on cooperation programs between the UN nuclear watchdog and Egypt in the field of peaceful use of nuclear energy, according to Egypt‘s official MENA news agency.

The IAEA chief will also meet with the Cairo-based Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa, said MENA.

And America is cranking up its energy partnership with Russia:

U.S. nuclear power reactors will be able to obtain more supplies of Russian enriched uranium for fuel, under a trade deal signed by the two countries late on Friday.

The agreement will provide U.S. utilities with a reliable supply of nuclear fuel by allowing Russia to boost exports export to the United States while minimizing any disruption to the United States‘ domestic enrichment industry.

And Lithuania is one step closer to a joint nuclear energy venture with Sweden and Poland:

Lithuania‘s government won a parliamentary vote on Friday to merge a private and two state-owned energy companies into one group to invest in a new nuclear power plant and build connections to Sweden and Poland.

The vote will give a boost to delayed plans to build the new power station in cooperation with Poland, Latvia and Estonia, all countries that want to reduce their reliance on Russia for energy.

No wonder the International Herald Tribune calls nuclear the “power investment of 2008”:

Britain is part of a broader trend of growing support for nuclear energy in other countries. The French company Areva, the world’s largest builder of nuclear reactors, forecasts that 150 to 300 nuclear reactors will be built in the world from now to 2030. At least 50 of them will be built in China and India, according to news reports.

This is encouraging for global power plant builders like Mitsubishi Heavy Industries,Toshiba through its unit Westinghouse and Areva, which have all benefited from China’s investment in new nuclear in recent years. Analysts figure that decommissioning projects in more mature markets like Britain, Russia, Japan and France could prove to be an even bigger money maker for the nuclear industry. A review of the global decommissioning market, carried out by the Nuclear Industry Association in Britain, estimates such projects to be worth £300 billion over the next 30 years.

Posted in energy, IAEA, Nuclear | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Bulgaria Update: Two Nuclear Reactors to Return, Russian Nuclear Powerplant Contract to be Concluded Tomorrow

Posted by K.E. White on January 17, 2008

Bulgaria, having trouble meeting its growing energy needs, is set to sign a contract with Russia for a nuclear power plant tomorrow.

From CNN.com:

‘We will sign on January 18 an engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract to build two pressurized water reactors of 1,000 megawatts each,’ Economy and Energy minister Petar Dimitrov told a news conference.

‘The contract will be implemented by Atomstroiexport. A joint venture between Areva and Siemens (NYSE:SI) will be the sub-contractor,’ Dimitrov said, putting the total value of the contract at 4 bln eur.

A letter-of-intent to build the plant at Belene on the River Danube was signed in November 2006.

But this deal is not stopping Bulgaria from reopening to nuclear reactors it shut down to join the European Union. From the Kyiv Post:

Plagued by electricity shortages, Bulgaria on Wednesday announced it was considering plans to reopen nuclear reactors it had to shut down before joining the European Union a year ago.

The two Russian-made units at Bulgaria‘s only nuclear plant, Kozlodui, were switched off just hours before the Balkan country joined the European Union on Jan. 1, 2007.

“We are holding active diplomatic talks to achieve the necessary support to prolong the life of Kozlodui’s units 3 and 4,” Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev said.

He did not elaborate but said reopening the reactors was a “clear political choice of the government.”

The move would require approval from the other 26 EU members.

Posted in Bulgaria, energy, Nuclear, Russia | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »