Posts tagged ‘nuclear energy’

September 1, 2012

Should We Be Burning Our Nuclear Waste?

GE-Hitachi have recently announced their plan to build a so-called Prism fast reactor, which could help in the disposal of nuclear waste – by burning it.

According to some statistics there are a hundred tonnes of plutonium waste in the UK, which is currently converted into mixed-oxide fuel (Mox). This fuel is burnt afterwards in a water-cooled reactor, this process is a bit more complicated and less efficient. Mox is widely used in France but the factory in Sellafield, UK, was ordered to close down last year.

The PRISM-type fast-breeder reactors were considered to only be available in the distant future, but GE-Hitachi have already drawn up a feasibility study, which is being reviewed right now. According to company experts, it could be ready in only five years after licensing, and this solution allows the extraction of rather large amounts of energy from the nuclear waste, and it’s cheaper than the Mox technology. Furthermore, this type of disposal would mean that there is no need to bury it deep underground.

Radioactive waste is created in many industries, and its treatment varies based on its half life. Some only need to be stored for hours or days but some have thousands of years of half life, thus it is important to find a good solution for their storage. Throughout the years there have been several options and ideas, which may not be appropriate any more. Many countries used to dispose of nuclear waste in oceans, which is now forbidden, but there were suggestions to keep them in the ice sheets or in outer space, as well.

Promising solutions, like the PRISM reactor, may help the treatment of dangerous nuclear waste but the question and controversy regarding nuclear energy still remains.

Written for the Energy Saving Warehouse 

July 1, 2012

Japan’s Last Nuclear Plant

Following the disaster at Fukushima last year, Japan has now closed down its last nuclear power plant, which would have been unimaginable earlier in a country that is one of those that rely most on this type of power source. The plans are to re-start them after the summer after strict stress tests but this is now the opportunity for Japan to get away from nuclear energy.

Due to the decision of shutting down all 54 nuclear plants, which gave 30 per cent of all electricity, imports of fossil fuels like gas and oil have increased by 100 per cent compared to last year, with 18 per cent more imported liquified natural gas. Also, power cuts are expected to be regular throughout the summer and so the government has asked people and companies to save energy wherever they can – having set a target of a 15 per cent saving.

Renewables like wind, solar and geothermal energy sources are currently only 1 per cent in the overall energy mix, and even including hydroelectricity it only adds up to ten per cent.

Greenpeace has compiled a report with three suggested scenarios for the country on how to lower or completely eliminate the reliance on nuclear power. They urge first of all the improvement of energy efficiency and the implementation of various policies, like differing prices for peak periods, strict efficiency standards, cap-and-trade emissions trading, labelling and feed-in tariffs. Besides these the accelerated development of photovoltaic schemes and wind energy systems, as well as the improvement of the electricity grid shall be emphasised – with the potential introduction of a smart grid. According to Greenpeace further focus should also be put on the spread on electric vehicles and combined heat and power generation (CHP).
Greenpeace’s scenario could also help at lowering carbon-dioxide emissions, which currently will increase due to the enhanced use of fossil fuels. Thus Japan would not have to re-consider climate change and emissions-related treaties and agreements signed earlier.

Global law firm White & Case has also released a customer alert on the potentially good opportunities in the Japanese renewable sector in the summer, when the Renewable Energy Act will come into force. This Act offers higher-than-market rates for feed-in tariffs for solar, wind and geothermal energy although according to some analysts other regulations have to be changed (e.g. land use in national parks for geothermal developments) to be successful. Furthermore, the exact rate will only be set on 1st July, 2012, from when the law will be binding.

If utilising this great opportunity and introducing appropriate regulations, Japan may become the first truly renewable energy power in the world.

Written for the Energy Saving Warehouse

Image from BBC

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