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Nuclear Progresses In Some Countries Despite Fukushima Fears

Germany’s decision to close its reactors rejected as unrealistic

bid cover sheetSince the March 11 earthquake and tsunami hit the six TEPCO reactors at Fukushima Japan, anti-nuclear groups have been on a roll.  Germany’s panic attack which will result in closing 17 reactors accounting for a quarter of its electricity is widely touted as a bellwether example for other countries.  

The goal of post-industrial visionaries is to get the mainstream media and the public to accept a scenario of the inevitable end to the use of nuclear energy in as many places as possible.

But is this trend really taking place?  Recent developments indicate it is not.  Here are some examples.

China to lift ban on new projects

By early 2012 China will resume approving the start of new nuclear energy projects following completion of a national nuclear safety plan.  According to wire services, the China Securities Journal is reporting that in August the government completed the inspection of its existing fleet of nuclear reactors which provide about 11 Gwe of power. 

It said that plants under construction, including four from Westinghouse and two from Areva, were also part of the review. 

In an unexpected move, the Journal said the government would offer greater transparency on nuclear safety issues by making the results of the safety reviews available for public inspection.

Czech utility CEZ plans Europe’s largest reactor complexes

The Czech government is planning a significant expansion of nuclear energy now that Germany has moved to shutter its 17 reactors by 2020.  A national energy strategy would call for building two or more new reactors at Temelin and three more at Dukovany. The two sites house a total of six existing reactors and grid infrastructure. 

martin-kocourekCzech Industry & Trade Minister Martin Kocourek (right) told the Bloomberg wire service  September 8 the country will not give in to anti-nuclear influences from Austria or Germany.

“Czech doesn’t need ideology.  What it needs is a rational update of its energy strategy.  The current ideology-driven policies of some countries is one thing; our reality is another.”

If state-owned Czech utility CEZ builds all five reactors, worth about $28 billion, it will export electricity to Germany and Poland.  CEZ is expected to release documents related to the bid process next month.  The bidders are Areva, Westinghouse, and Rosatom.  An award for the first two new reactors to be built at Temelin is expected in 2013.

On September 15 CEZ named Daniel Benes, 41, as its new CEO with a mandate to execute a national energy strategy that includes building new nuclear reactors.  On September 20 Benes told financial wire services it will be his top priority linked to the goal of energy security for the Czech Republic.

Vaclav Klaus at UN On September 23 Czech President Vaclav Klaus (left) spoke at the United Nations in support of nuclear energy.  According to English language Czech news media, Klaus said: . . .

“We consider what happened in Fukushima did not by any means question the arguments for nuclear energy.  These arguments are strong, economically rational and convincing.”

He called Germany’s decision to close its reactors an “irrational populist event.” 

In a parallel statement trade minister Kocourek said that CEZ would not expand renewable energy sources beyond 13% because it is unrealistic to expect to run a modern country on them.  He added CEZ “has big doubts” about biomass.

South Korea to invest in Romanian nuclear plant

A South Korean nuclear energy consortium may invest in a project to build a third and a fourth reactor at Cernovoda in southeast Romania. The consortium replaces an investor group which pulled out of the project earlier this year. 

The project manager for the new reactors is EnergoNuclear.  Right now Romania’s state owned electric utility holds an 85% share in the project and Italy’s ENEL holds another 9%. If the deal goes through, the South Korean group could take up to a 45 % stake in the project which is estimated to cost $5.7 billion. 

Romania has two CANDU reactors at the site near the country’s Black Sea coast.  South Korea has experience with the CANDU design so it is plausible it may reference it in a proposal to build the next two units.

This would be a huge win for AECL which recently was split up with its reactor division sold off for peanuts to SNC Lavalin.  AECL has marketed itself in eastern Europe hoping for this kind of development. 

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