[ RadSafe ] BBC Reports Nuclear needs 'huge expansion'

Fred Dawson fd003f0606 at blueyonder.co.uk
Mon Oct 16 11:10:48 CDT 2006

Nuclear needs 'huge expansion'


The world needs a 20-fold expansion in nuclear energy in order to prevent 
dangerous climate change, the head of a leading industry body has said.
John Ritch, director-general of the World Nuclear Association, made his 
comments at a conference in Sydney.
He said nuclear power was the only way to fuel fast-developing nations 
without big rises in greenhouse gases, and that nuclear weapons is an 
unrelated issue.
His comments have been condemned by environmental groups.
There are about 440 reactors in the world producing electricity, and Mr 
Ritch forecast a major expansion ahead, with almost 30 new plants currently 
under construction.
"We will be moving... to a world in the next 25 years in which we have more 
than 1,000 reactors, and by mid-century I would expect we would have 2,000 
to 3,000 reactors in the world," he said, concluding that by the end of the 
century, a 20-fold increase on today's numbers would be feasible and 
'Clean and green'
If scientific projections of human-induced climate change are true, Mr Ritch 
continued, the effect would be "the death of not just millions, but billions 
of people, and the destruction of much of civilisation on all continents."
Although nuclear fission does produce greenhouse gases, notably during fuel 
production, emissions are currently a lot less that those from burning 
fossil fuels, which has led in recent years to the nuclear industry 
positioning itself as "clean and green".
Nuclear power has become a key platform of the Asia-Pacific Partnership on 
Clean Development and Climate, a six-nation pact widely seen as a rival to 
the Kyoto Protocol which seeks to curb greenhouse gas emissions through 
technology alone.
This year has seen the emergence of two new deals between members of the 
pact: Australia has agreed to supply uranium to China, while moves to share 
civilian nuclear technologies with India are proceeding through the US 
Concerns over North Korea's apparent development of nuclear weapons and 
Iran's enrichment programme should not, Mr Ritch suggested, deter further 
development of civilian reactors.
"The nuclear proliferation danger comes not from the existence of nuclear 
facilities, but from the intentions of those who possess them," he said.
"The intent of an Iran or a North Korea is a geopolitical variable virtually 
independent of whether countries like Brazil, Canada, South Africa, or 
Australia develop additional nuclear facilities."
Tony Juniper of Friends of the Earth UK was scathing on this point.
"It is absolute rubbish," he told the BBC News website.
"In most countries which have embraced civilian nuclear power, the next step 
has been towards weapons.
"Finland and South Korea might be exceptions; but in Britain for example we 
built the Magnox reactors to equip nuclear-armed bombers and submarines, and 
to say there's no reason to be concerned about the spread of civilian 
nuclear power is complacent to the point of being foolhardy."
Mr Juniper pointed to recent research showing that Britain and other 
countries could make swingeing cuts in greenhouse gas emissions from 
combinations of energy efficiency, better public transport, carbon capture 
and storage, and renewable resources without the need for nuclear reactors.
Peak uranium?
The well-documented concern that oil may be running out has given rise to a 
parallel debate over uranium; and Mr Ritch's comments beg the question of 
whether there is enough available to supply anything like the expansion he 
is advocating.
"It's absolutely out of the question," was the response of David Fleming, an 
independent energy analyst based in the UK.
"He obviously hasn't got a clue about the detail of the nuclear cycle. It's 
all very well to stand back and make these wild statements, but there's a 
big difference between wishes and reality."
Mr Fleming's research suggests that as remand rises, mining companies will 
turn to poorer-grade ores. At some point, more energy will have to be put in 
to process the ore than the reactors will generate.

But Robert Vance of the OECD's Nuclear Energy Agency was more positive.
Based on two recent reports issued by the Agency, he said: "If we look at 
the amount of what are called 'conventional resources' - that's uranium 
known to be in the ground which is well described - there would be enough at 
current rates of use to last for 85 years."
A 20-fold increase would present challenges, he suggested; but reprocessing 
used fuel, and developing new reactors based on fast-breeder cycles that 
create new fuel as they burn, could significantly extend the resources 
"If you just talk about what's in the ground and recycling, there's enough 
to last for 2,500 years [at current rates of use]," he said.

Fred Dawson 

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