After Fukushima, Asia Sticks to Nuclear Power Plans

What is it?

Developing countries that are not currently using nuclear power are being enticed to do so by the availability of cheap nuclear technology exports. Firstly, Russia is encouraging the deployment of nuclear technology in the developing world via its "Build, Own, Operate" (BOO) package and estimates that it will have 80 BOO packages in place worldwide by 2030.1 In addition, the likes of the U.S., South Korea and France are all competing in Asia to secure nuclear technology exports. Countries with no previous experience operating nuclear power are exploring nuclear technology to fulfill their current and future energy needs. As most of the Asia Pacific sits on the geological Ring of Fire, an area of intense seismic and volcanic activity, the consequences of a nuclear accident would be significant.

Why is it important?

The nuclear reactors in use worldwide are categorised as either first, second or third generation. Third generation reactors currently being built in China are modified second generation reactor designs that have not been tested. For example, the construction of two European Pressurised Reactors (EPR) in France and Finland have been plagued with safety concerns and design flaws that have significantly slowed development.2 China is currently building an EPR design just 130 kilometres from Hong Kong while four AP1000 designs are currently under construction.3 In addition, the U.S.-based Westinghouse (controlled by Toshiba) won a technology transfer contract for its untested AP1000, a pressured water reactor design that is to form the standard for Chinese inland nuclear projects. A key criticism of the AP1000 is that it has "weaker containment, less redundancy in safety systems, and fewer safety features than current reactors."4

According to the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Germany, we can expect a severe nuclear accident on average every 10-20 years.5 A former Chinese state physicist has stated that a nuclear accident in China between 2020 and 2030 is highly probable.6 This assessment is based on China's plan to build 30 untested third generation reactors in locations likely to suffer from future water shortages. Extrapolating from the European modelling, 50% of caesium particles would be deposited about 1000 kilometres from the site and 25% about 2500 kilometres from the site should an accident occur. An accident anywhere in Asia has the potential to have significant regional impact.

References

  1. "Nuclear Ambition on Display at Home and Abroad." Moscow Times. July 2013. http://www.themoscowtimes.com/mobile/article/483507.html
  2. Patel, T. and. S. Bakewell. "U.K. Nuclear Future Relies on Reactor Plagued by Delays: Energy." Bloomberg News. October 2013. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-10-21/u-k-nuclear-future-relies-on-re...
  3. Kao, E. "Green groups fear 'most dangerous' nuclear power plant on Hong Kong's doorstep." South China Morning Post. September 2013. http://www.scmp.com/news/hong-kong/article/1303433/green-groups-fear-mos...
  4. "Sunday Dialogue: Nuclear Energy, Pro and Con (Letter to the Editor)." New York Times. February 2012. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/26/opinion/sunday/sunday-dialogue-nuclear...
  5. "Severe Nuclear Reactor Accidents Likely Every 10 to 20 Years, European Study Suggests." ScienceDaily. May 2012. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120522134942.htmhttp://www....
  6. He, Z. "Chinese nuclear disaster 'highly probable' by 2030." Chinadialogue. March 2013. https://www.chinadialogue.net/article/show/single/en/5808-Chinese-nuclea...
2018-04-10