Nuclear energyBy Amado de Jesus
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Many countries have built nuclear power reactors in their pursuit of energy security. Thus they become less dependent on imported sources of energy.
Our country incurred a US$600 million loan for the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant in the 1970s, but the project was not carried out when President Marcos fell out of power.
The United States has 104 operational nuclear power reactors, followed by France with 58, Japan 54, Russia 32, South Korea 20, India 19, Canada 18, Germany 17, China 11, Taiwan 6 and Pakistan 2.
Today countries with nuclear power reactors under construction include China with 23, Russia 9, South Korea 6, India 4, Taiwan 2 and Iran 1.
It is to be noted that many countries with nuclear power reactors are not located in zones with high seismic activity. It is dangerous to locate nuclear plants in places prone to earthquakes and tsunamis.
Japan had little choice given its natural resources and had to resort to building nuclear power plants.
What would have happened if we had the Bataan Nuclear Plant when Mt. Pinatubo erupted in the early 1990s?
Nuclear waste management
High-level radioactive waste from nuclear power plants require sophisticated treatment and management to successfully isolate them from air, water and soil. Nuclear wastes have a lifetime of thousands of years. The full effects of nuclear waste are yet to be seen.
The time involved from start of construction of a nuclear power station to the safe disposal of its last radioactive waste takes hundreds of years. In countries with not so stable governments, we can imagine how the safety and management of such complex power systems could be neglected from one government administration to the next.
The Iran-Iraq conflicts in the 1980s saw the bombing of nuclear plants and research facilities. Next decade, Iraq launched missiles at Israel’s nuclear power plant. Nuclear reactors are chosen targets during military conflict. The strength of both reactor and waste fuel storage should be enough to withstand an attack.
Many nuclear plants are built near the sea to have a ready supply of cooling water. But again, in case of earthquake and tsunami and flooding, sea water is corrosive. Freshwater shortage and nuclear accidents can lead to a nuclear meltdown such as what happened in Fukushima a few years ago.
This disaster prompted Japan’s prime minister to announce recently that Japan’s dependency on nuclear energy will be phased out by 2030s.
PH sources of energy
One-third of our total power generation by source in 2010 came from coal. Natural gas followed with 29 percent, geothermal 15 percent, hydro 12 percent.
It is very tempting to consider nuclear power for our expanding energy needs. However, we must be realistic about the repercussions of such an energy source.
We could learn from the experience of Freiburg in southwest Germany also known as the solar capital of Europe.
Following the Chernobyl catastrophe in 1986, the citizens defeated plans to build a nuclear power plant 30 kilometers from Freiburg. Its municipal council then voted to adopt the guidelines for a future-oriented energy policy which would set the pattern for Freiburg to become Europe’s most prominent solar city.
We should make greater use of renewable energy and be more serious about greater energy efficiency and conservation efforts.
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