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article imageOp-Ed: Nuclear safety and expenses become more problematic

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By Eliot Elwar     Apr 18, 2012 in World
Today reactors built in the United States and elsewhere finds problematic safety concerns contributing to nuclear expenses during an era of earthquakes and natural disasters.
In addition, Japan seeks to restart some nuclear power plants, the U.K. considers fast reactors for solving plutonium problems, Germany faces another fight with the rest of Europe over nuclear power, Japan reactor restarting begins debate about safety, and addressing flaws in nuclear safety could likely drive the already high cost of nuclear power even higher.
According to the New York Times, Japan plans to restart its nuclear power plants. Wishing to avoid possibly dreadful summer energy deficiencies, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said that his administration would attempt to resume operations of two nuclear reactors. His effort will be the first to restore Japan’s nuclear power industry.
The New York Times also reported that Mr. Noda declared two units located in western Japan were safe based on computer simulations analysis results designed to assess the reactors’ tolerance for surviving a large earthquake and tsunami similar to disasters in 2011, which paralyzed the cooling systems at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. The reactor explosions and meltdowns ejected radiation throughout Japan’s northeastern region and the Pacific Ocean area in what analysts describe as the most dangerous nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.
According to the New York Times, Japanese concerns about their safety following the Fukushima misfortune have prohibited their government from resuming its nuclear reactors before the reactors have been legally authorized after meticulous maintenance assessments. In April, only one of the nation’s 54 nuclear reactors is operational, but it will be shut down for repair during early May. The reactor shutdowns that have significantly decreased Japan’s electricity have trigger concerns from Japanese economic organizations about growing energy prices and the risk of more power shortages.
Scientific American reported that the U.K. considers fast reactors for solving plutonium problems. The U.K. is contending with how to eliminate weapons-grade plutonium and the nation may employ new reactor designs to achieve this objective. The fundamental problem may be that new advanced reactors probably will not eliminate the nuclear waste that has piled up effectively. Even with a fleet of fast reactors, nations would still require an eventual home for radioactive waste. Analysis of 2010 M.I.T. report on spent nuclear fuel rejected fast reactors over traditional technologies.
According to Business Insider, Germany faces another fight with the European community about nuclear power. In the European Union (EU), nuclear power businesses are lining up to draw currency from taxpayers in other countries. Turns out, France, the UK, Poland, and the Czech Republic, which are all planning on building more nuclear power plants, are pressuring the EU to loosen the restrictions. In preparation for the European economics and energy ministers meeting, the EU seeks to reclassify nuclear energy as low-emission technology, a heavily subsidized category similar to solar and wind power. The EU would make nuclear power eligible for the same subsidies. The EU argues that Europe's plan to change to low-emission energy sources by 2050 must be “technology neutral.”
Business Insider also reported that if the four nations succeed, the EU could subsidize nuclear power plant construction and their electricity sale for billions of euros. This would be paid by all taxpayers in the EU through the EU budget, where 20 percent would be paid by German taxpayers. This possibility offers an explanation for why Germany has decided to exit nuclear power. Hence, efforts to get German taxpayers to fund nuclear energy in other nations will be very difficult due to safety and cost concerns.
According to Reuters, Japan reactor restarting begins debate about safety. Japan's nuclear power industry had never spent much time, energy, and currency persuading common people like Susumu Takahashi, a fisherman fishing for small fish from the Lake Biwa’ s serene shores, which is a good distance away from any nuclear reactor. However, since the industry is weakened following last year's Fukushima nuclear disaster, it is desperately in need of public trust to restores its economy. Many Japanese have strong concerns about economic and environmental safety issues related to the restarting of Japan’s damaged nuclear power plants. For the Japanese people, whose Lake Biwa remains Japan's major drinking water sources, the Fukushima disaster demonstrated that regions previously considered to be a safe distance from nuclear reactors were clearly at risk of radioactive contamination.
PR News wire reported that addressing flaws in nuclear safety could likely drive the already high cost of nuclear power even higher. Analysis of many reactors constructed in the U.S. discovers that troublesome safety concerns have gradually increased nuclear expenses and the Fukushima disaster last year portends that future reactors could experience similar misfortunes, bringing an end to the modern "Nuclear Renaissance."
Analysis
The high expense related to nuclear energy safety issues are gradually increasing and this issue has become the primary reason for influencing new nuclear reactor construction determinations and the strategies for the elimination of aging reactors, according to analyst Mark Cooper’s new paper presented at the Symposium for nuclear energy’s future.
The budget for building new nuclear reactors in the United States continues increasing steadily because the industry cannot escape from evolving safety concerns that are inextricably woven together in the reactor technology, according to Cooper’s conclusions.
"I find that nuclear construction is not only unaffordable now, but it is very likely to become even more cost prohibitive, due to unresolved safety issues that history shows are part and parcel of reactor technology itself...The combination of a catastrophically dangerous resource, a complex technology, human frailties, and the uncertainties of natural events make it extremely unlikely that the negative answer as to the feasibility of affordable cheap nuclear energy can be changed to a positive," said Cooper.
"In the United States more than 80 percent of US reactors face one or more of the issues that have been highlighted by the Fukushima accident - seismic risk, fire hazard, and elevated spent fuel. Moreover, half of those that do not exhibit one of these issues had a 'near miss' in 2011. Clearly, safety remains a challenge in the United States, one that has been magnified by Fukushima," according to the Cooper paper conclusions.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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