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Friday, July 11, 2008

Italy to build nuclear plants again and Slovenia's problems

Hardly surprising development for Europe, Italy is getting back to nuclear plants. As a physicist, I can say, I'm happy with this news. Surely, there is a danger in nuclear plants but it's small. And this energy stays the cleanest, the most accessible and the most independent. But for me one question rises. If we see a Renaissances of nuclear energy, then we have to think who's going to enrich the Uranium for them. Isn't this a right of every country that wants to do it? I mean, the access to science is fundamental right of everyone. I don't think exactly of Iran, though it's a part of it. Because what if say Slovenia wants to enrich its own Uranium? Anyway, I'm glad Italy admitted the only choice for Europe- nuclear energy. And I hope the new rise of those buildings will make new and safer regulations for the use of nuclear energy. Just to be on the safer side.
And of course Italy has to solve its garbage problem first. Because if it's going to let the mafia dispose radioactive waste, that would be bad for everyone.
And one more thing- countries really should invest in renewables more instead of in coal. Because it's the best for everyone.

Also please check the following LINK that talks about the problems with Slovenian reactors. All I want to say for this case is that the Safety and Warning systems proved they work and I see this more like a warning that we should always consider safety first, but not like an example why we shouldn't build such plants. Quite on the contrary-we Should bui
ld them, we just have to remember what they are and deal accordingly. (the shortened version of the article is below)

Italy Plans to Resume Building Atomic Plants

May 23, 2008

ROME — Italy announced Thursday that within five years it planned to resume building nuclear energy plants, two decades after a public referendum resoundingly banned nuclear power and deactivated all its reactors.

“By the end of this legislature, we will put down the foundation stone for the construction in our country of a group of new-generation nuclear plants,” said Claudio Scajola, minister of economic development. “An action plan to go back to nuclear power cannot be delayed anymore.”

The change is a striking sign of the times, reflecting growing concern in many European countries over the skyrocketing price of oil and energy security, and the warming effects of carbon emissions from fossil fuels. All have combined to make this once-scorned form of energy far more palatable.

“Italy has had the most dramatic, the most public turnaround, but the sentiments against nuclear are reversing very quickly all across Europe — Holland, Belgium, Sweden, Germany and more,” said Ian Hore-Lacey, spokesman for the World Nuclear Association, an industry group based in London.

The rehabilitation of nuclear power was underscored in January when John Hutton, the British business secretary, grouped it with “other low-carbon sources of energy” like biofuels. It was barely mentioned in the government action plan on energy three years earlier.

Echoing the sentiment on Thursday, Mr. Scajola said, “Only nuclear plants safely produce energy on a vast scale with competitive costs, respecting the environment.”

A number of European countries have banned or restricted nuclear power in the past 20 years, including Italy, which closed all its plants. Germany and Belgium have long prohibited the building of reactors, although existing ones were allowed to run their natural lifespan. France was one of the few countries that continued to rely heavily on nuclear power.

Environmental groups in Italy immediately attacked any plan to bring back nuclear power. Giuseppe Onufrio, a director of Greenpeace Italy, called the announcement “a declaration of war.”

Emma Bonino, an opposition politician and vice president of the Italian Senate, said building nuclear plants made no economic sense because they would not be ready for at least 20 years.

“We should be investing more in solar and wind,” she said. “We should be moving much more quickly to improve energy efficiency, of buildings, for example. That’s something Italy has never done anything with.”

But conditions were very different in the 1980s, when European countries turned away from nuclear power. Oil cost less than $50 a barrel, global warming was a fringe science and climate change had not been linked to manmade emissions. Perhaps more important for the public psyche, almost all of Europe’s nuclear bans and restrictions were enacted after the 1986 Chernobyl disaster in the Soviet Union in which radioactivity was released into the environment.

The equation has changed. Today, with oil approaching $150 a barrel, most European countries, which generally have no oil and gas resources, have been forced by finances to consider new forms of energy — and fast. New nuclear plants take 20 years to build. Also, Europeans watched in horror in 2006 as President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia cut off the natural gas supply to Ukraine in a price dispute, leaving it in darkness.

New green technologies, like solar power, wind and biofuel, cannot yet form the backbone of a country’s energy strategy, and it is not clear that they will ever achieve that level.

Italy is the largest net energy importer in Europe, but nearly all European countries rely heavily on imported energy — particularly oil and gas.

Enel, Italy’s leading energy provider, announced this year that it would close its oil-fired power plants because the fuel had become unaffordable. Italians pay the highest energy prices in Europe. Enel has been building coal plants to fill the void left by oil. Coal plants are cheaper but create relatively high levels of carbon emissions, even using the type of new “clean coal” technology Enel had planned.

A few European countries, like Germany and Poland, could likewise fall back on their abundant coal reserves if they rejected oil and gas — but most of the coal mined in each country is of low grade and pollutes highly.

Enel, which operates power plants in several European countries, already has at least one nuclear plant, in Bulgaria, and has been researching so-called fourth-generation nuclear reactors, which are intended to be safer and to minimize waste and the use of natural resources. Italy’s old reactors still exist, but are too outdated to be reopened. New ones would have to be built.

The Italian government laid out few specifics to back its announcement and officials at the Ministry of Economic Development said they were still studying issues like exactly what kind of plants could be built, and whether a new referendum would be required to re-open Italy to nuclear power.

To build nuclear plants, Italy would almost certainly have to improve its system of dealing with nuclear waste. The plants that were shut down years ago still store 235 tons of nuclear fuel. source

Slovene reactor scare puts spotlight on nuclear safety

5 June 2008

A coolant leak at a nuclear power plant in Slovenia has been contained, but the incident has brought renewed attention to the debate over whether nuclear offers a safe low-carbon option in the fight against climate change.

"Slovenian authorities have confirmed that there has been no discharge to the environment. The situation can be considered fully under control," the Commission said in a press statement today (5 June).

The leak, which occurred yesterday (4 June) in the main reactor of the Krško nuclear plant in South West Slovenia, was communicated the same day by plant operators to the European Community Urgent Radiological Information Exchange (ECURIE) system under the EU's nuclear safety alert process.

"The reactor of the Nuclear Power Plant of Krško was shut down completely at 7:30pm" and "the relatively small leakage remained within the containment building," the Commission's statement added.

While any serious environmental or safety fallout was avoided, the incident comes at a sensitive time since the EU is endorsing nuclear as part of efforts to slash EU CO2 emissions by at least 20% by 2020 (EurActiv 26/05/08).

Nuclear remains a controversial topic in many EU countries, but a number of member states have indicated they will rely on the technology in their future energy mix.

The Greens in the Parliament were sceptical that the leak did not spread beyond the plant, following an apparent "increase in radiation levels was recorded on 3 June, the night before the alarm was sounded," the group said in a statement. /probably, but if it was below the norm, then it should be all right and is hard to say to what it is due/

Slovenian Christian Democrat MEP Romana Jordan Cizelj, meanwhile, said "the incident had no impact on public or workers' health and there were no harmful releases into the environment. There was no increase in radiation in the surrounding region".

Slovenia's Environment Ministry also released a statement. "No radioactive leaks occurred during the incident, and there is no risk of that occurring now," it said. source

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