Nuclear Europe?

We wrote earlier about how concern over climate change may lead to a nuclear-power revival in the U.S., despite longtime opposition and fear on many fronts.

The issue is unfolding similarly in Europe. Here’s a fascinating short article from Spiegel, via BusinessWeek:

Italy on Thursday said it would join a growing number of European countries returning to nuclear power in the face of rising energy prices and concerns about climate change. In a referendum in 1987, Italians voted to ban nuclear power and deactivate the country’s reactors. But now the country says it wants to start building nuclear power plants again before the end of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi‘s term, with the first construction scheduled to begin by 2013.

The article cites Giuseppe Onufio, director of Greenpeace Italy, calling this announcement a “declaration of war.” Interestingly, the U.S. nuclear movement has gotten a big boost from the conversation of Patrick Moore, a co-founder of Greenpeace International, who used to oppose nuclear power but is now an ardent advocate.

The Spiegel article also has an interesting take on Germany’s nuclear position:

Speaking on Thursday at a national Catholic conference in the city of Osnabrück, Merkel said Germany’s plan to abandon nuclear power “didn’t make sense,” especially as a country “with the safest nuclear power plants.” She said the country would be making a “laughing stock” of itself if it abandoned the production of nuclear power for the sake of a good conscience only to turn around and import nuclear energy from other countries.

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  1. Paul Franceus says:

    This is quite a change. I was a teenager in the 70s when all the “no nukes” rallies and concerts were going on. The big thing in New York at the time was protesting the Shoreham nuclear power plant. It was great fun to get in the car with all my friends, go to a protest, listen to some music and feel like we were saving the world. Talk about unintended consequences, here we are 30 years later looking at all the coal fired plants and screaming about them.

    Of course, the radical environmentalists don’t like any kind of power generation – what are we supposed to do once we turn off all nuclear plants, stop burning coal/oil/natural gas and blow up all the hydroelectric dams and tear down the wind farms. Next we’ll find some horrible consequence of using solar power.

    I don’t imagine that we’ll ever get past the knee jerk emotional reactions that seem to drive us. Who knew that the ice age fears of the 1970s would give way to global warming today?

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  2. Will says:

    Greenpeace should call itself Greenpoverty. They won’t be happy until humanity is returned to an existence that is nasty, brutish and short.

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  3. M Todd Bolin says:

    Nuclear should be one of many options this country uses to end its dependency on oil. Also, we need to stop forming are energy policies based on the whims of Hollywood.

    There was a time when the experts were science and industry not rock stars. Instead of spending trillions of dollars on securing oil (Iraq war) we should be investing that money developing a sound and renewable energy source.

    I grew up in the 70s and remember three mile island, but the end result was not one person died as a result of the disaster. That was also, 30 years ago and technology has made leap in computers, sensors and controls. It is time to apply them to nuclear power, coal, and all forms of power generation to create clean, efficient, and lower cost energy.

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  4. jonathan says:

    As we may remember, the argument against nuclear was that it was dangerous: to the environment (because it would heat water near the plant) and to people (an “oops” scenario). My POV then was a vote against nuclear was a vote for coal and for oil. Ummm, coal? How many people have died in the past few years in mines? How much greenhouse gas is produced by burning coal – I’ve heard it’s a significant % but I don’t know the numbers. As for oil? The Arctic Reserve? The Exxon Valdez?

    These are perfect examples of a point often discussed these days in scientific studies: that we are more fearful of unknown potential threats than threats which actually exist. We are more comfortable accepting the real dangers of coal and oil than the possible dangers of a nuclear plant.

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  5. oddTodd says:

    Apparently Greenpeace doesn’t think power plants generate CO2:

    “[N]uclear power will fail to address climate change for the very same reason it has failed to stem the flow of foreign oil. Nuclear power generates electricity and electricity does not power our automobiles.”


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  6. Kit Stolz says:

    Contrary to what some may think, Patrick Moore, Steward Brand, James Lovelock, Al Gore and countless other environmentalists are open to nuclear energy, which indeed likely is better for us and the planet than more coal plants. But what commentators from the right-hand side of the political dial usually fail to recognize is that the opposition to nuclear plant construction is mostly coming from utilities and Wall Street, which understandably pales at spending 5-12 billion dollars each for these plants, which can take as long as ten years to build.

    This is why people who are serious about this issue want to price carbon emissions into the cost of energy, to level the playing field, and establish an incentive for emitting less. Advocates include countless conservative economists. See President Bush’s former chief economic advisor, Greg Mankiw, and his “Pigou Club,” which includes the likes of Milton Friedman and many others.

    It’s easy to point the finger of blame. Blame Bush, blame environmentalists, blame China, etc. But to solve the problem — that takes a willingness to accept responsibility.

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  7. palhh says:

    Nuclear power isn’t economically viable at the moment. For example France gave about 1 billion euros as export subsidies for the nuclear plant build in Finland.

    The project is a new huge prototype reactor. The project has experienced long delay. It’s obvious that the infrastructure for building nuclear power has deteriorated a lot.

    It’s rather interesting that ‘Finnish’* nuclear power has not been hugely visible in the international media. It is the only nuclear plant in a western country to be build in years. If the project had been really successful I’m sure the companies in charge of the project would be marketed it as a huge success and a sign of things to come…

    * ie a French design build by Polish labor

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  8. mike says:

    Since power plants are at the country level in Europe and therefore can be less custom, they have a better chance of success than we do in the USA. The main cost driver and cause of problems in the USA is the fact that each nuclear power plant is a custom, one of a kind, job.

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