Can we do without Nuclear Energy ?
The EU is the largest energy importer in the world, importing 53% of its energy at an annual cost of around US$ 410 billion. To be precise, 26.9% of electricity was from nuclear, 40.5% from fossil fuels, 18.5% from hydro and 14.4% from other renewables (Fig. World Nuclear Association). As at January 2016, 129 nuclear power reactors are operating in the 28 EU member states. 53 other units are operating in 3 non EU countries: Russia, Ukraine and Switzerland. It should also be noted that at the end of 2014, over 40% of the 438 nuclear power reactors operating in the world have been in operation for more than 30 years (Fig.IAEA). Over the past decade significant progress has been made with regard to the safety standards, especially in the protection of nuclear power plants (NPPs) against severe accidents and in the management of radioactive waste. But this is not enough to reassure the populations living close to these NPPs. Suffice it to say that technical standards that govern the end-of-life of a nuclear plant are often intransparent and depend on government agencies. It is expected that by 2030, under pressure from public opinion, the nuclear capacity that will be lost due to the closure of a number of reactors should outweigh that gained from new plant construction. Authorities also underline that in the current state of world affairs, europeans should become less dependent on imported fossil fuels, especially the gas from Russia. We certainly must develop renewable energies and save energy. But today, whether one likes it or not, energy supply also includes nuclear power. In closing, let us recall just 2 key examples: France has 58 nuclear reactors generating 76.9% of its electricity; Switzerland has 5 nuclear reactors generating 40% of its electricity. We must conclude that nuclear power will have to be part of the solution.