A Change in Climate on Nuclear Power

Political worries are driving a nuclear rethink in the West.

Published: 30-Jan-2006

Feb. 6, 2006 issue - Martin Landtman is thinking big. As project director of Finland's next nuclear-power station, he's responsible for his country's largest-ever industrial investment. Over the next four years his work force will pour 250,000 cubic meters of reinforced concrete -- enough to build 5,000 apartment blocks -- at the Olkiluoto site on the Baltic coast. The goal: a structure tough enough to withstand a direct hit from the world's largest airliner or to contain a meltdown of its radioactive core. But his biggest challenge may have already passed. The project-the first new nuclear-power station in Europe since the Chernobyl disaster of 1986-now has majority support among his fellow Finns.

A nuclear plant with popular backing? And in one of those planet-loving Nordic states? Look no further for proof that the nuclear industry is losing its bugaboo status. Among voters, new anxieties have emerged to offset the old safety fears. Mounting evidence of climate change has refocused attention on an energy source that won't soil the atmosphere. Meanwhile, the cost of gas and oil is soaring. Europeans don't want to be dependent on supplies from Russia, especially after Moscow's recent show of arm-twisting with Ukraine. Japan wants to wean itself off of energy imports. U.S. citizens are fed up with relying on Middle Eastern states for their energy.

Nuclear power is increasingly seen as the only energy source that can square the needs of the environment and industry. More research is necessary before renewable sources will be able to provide energy in sufficient quantities at a realistic price. Olkiluoto's output alone will meet 10 percent of all Finland's requirements. Says Landtman: "We just can't hide from the problems anymore."


The forecast consumption of coal, nuclear and renewables have been increased from earlier predictions, while petroleum and natural gas consumption are lower.

The United States accounts for 2,544 MW of total installed capacity and 1,914 MW of operation, and the difference is due to a lack of steam due to over-exploitation of the Geysers field in California.

February 28,2006 address to National Governor's Ethanol Coalition.


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