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Issue 13 : April - June 2012 - malaysian society for engineering and ...

Issue 13 : April - June 2012 - malaysian society for engineering and ...

Issue 13 : April - June 2012 - malaysian society for engineering and

JAN-MAR 201021 st Century ProfessionalsNewsletterFor Members OnlyMalaysian Society for Engineering and Technology2421-07-WKL13th ISSUEAPR - JUN 2012Currently nuclear power plants provide 13% of theworld's electricity, with the U.S., France, and Japantogether accounting for about 50% of nucleargenerated electricity. In 2007, the IAEA reportedthere were 439 nuclear power reactors in operationin the world operating in 31 countries.China has 25 nuclear power reactors underconstruction, with plans to build many more, whilein the US the licenses of almost half its reactors havebeen extended to 60 years, and plans to buildanother dozen are under serious consideration.However, Japan's 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nucleardisaster prompted a rethink of nuclear energypolicy in many countries. Germany decided to closeall its reactors by 2022, and Italy has banned nuclearpower.There is an ongoing debate about the use ofnuclear energy. Proponents, such as the WorldNuclear Association and IAEA, contend that nuclearpower is a sustainable energy source that reducescarbon emissions. It can increase energy security.Nuclear power's true costs are lower than eitherfossil fuels or renewable. Nuclear fuel is virtuallyunlimited and packs a huge energy punch. Theyemphasize that the risks of storing waste are smalland can be further reduced by using the latesttechnology in newer reactors, and the operationalsafety record in the Western world is excellent whencompared to the other major kinds of power plants.Opponents, such as Greenpeace Internationalbelieves that nuclear power poses many threats topeople and the environment. These threats includehealth risks and environmental damage fromuranium mining, processing and transport, the riskof nuclear weapons proliferation or sabotage, andthe problem of radioactive nuclear waste. They alsocontend that reactors can go wrong, and there havebeen many serious nuclear accidents. Nuclearpower plant accidents include the Chernobyldisaster (1986), Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster(2011), and the Three Mile Island accident (1979). Itwill also increase the risk of nuclear war.On the issue of energy security, nuclear power hasbeen relatively unaffected by embargoes, anduranium is mined in countries willing to export,Inside This Issue:Nuclear Energy:Opinion Column 1 Past Events 3-5Editor’s Note 2 Feature Article 6-7HIGHLIGHT: ProposedEstablishment of MBOTan option ahead for the worldincluding Australia and Canada. However, thecountries now responsible for more than 30% of theworld’s uranium production are Kazakhstan,Namibia, Niger and Uzbekistan. They are politicallyunstable. Reserves from existing uranium mines arebeing rapidly depleted, and one assessment fromthe IAEA showed that enough high-grade ore existsto supply the needs of the current reactor fleet foronly 40-50 years. Expected available fuel threatenfuture plants and contribute to volatility of uraniumprices at existing plants. Uranium fuel costs haveescalated in recent years, which negatively impactson the viability of nuclear projects.On the issue of nuclear war threat, the growth ofnuclear power increases the ability of nations toobtain or enrich uranium for nuclear weapons, anda large-scale worldwide increase in nuclear energyfacilities would exacerbate this problem, puttingthe world at greater risk of a nuclear war orterrorism catastrophe. On the issue on nuclearreactors become preferred targets during militaryconflict, indeed over the past three decades, wehave seen repeated attacks during military airstrikes.On public opinion, a poll in the European Union forFeb-Mar 2005 showed 37% in favour of nuclearenergy and 55% opposed, leaving 8% undecided.This poll showed that the approval of nuclear powerrose with the education level of respondents.As of May 15, 2011, a total of 438 nuclear reactorswere operating in 30 countries, six fewer than thehistorical maximum of 444 in 2002.The currentworld reactor fleet has a total nominal capacity ofabout 372 gigawatts (or thousand megawatts). Thecost of building new reactors is extremely high, asare the risks involved. Most utilities have said thatthey won't build new plants without governmentloan guarantees.Analysis of the economics of nuclear power musttake into account who bears the risks of futureuncertainties. To date all operating nuclear powerplants were developed by state-owned orregulated utility monopolies where many of therisks associated with construction costs, operatingperformance, fuel price, and other factors were2borne by consumers rather than suppliers. Manycountries have now liberalized the electricitymarket where these risks, and the risk of cheapercompetitors emerging before capital costs arerecovered, are borne by plant suppliers and operatorsrather than consumers, which leads to a significantlydifferent evaluation of the economics of newnuclear power plants.Following the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nucleardisaster, costs are likely to go up for currentlyoperating and new nuclear power plants, due toincreased requirements for on-site spent fuelmanagement and elevated design basis threats.Having said about nuclear energy, according to a2011 projection by the International EnergyAgency, solar power generators may produce mostof the world’s electricity within 50 years, with windpower, hydroelectricity and biomass plants supplyingmuch of the remaining generation. "Photovoltaicand concentrated solar power together canbecome the major source of electricity". Renewabletechnologies can enhance energy security inelectricity generation, heat supply, and transportation.With the above issues raised, it is very clear thatthere is no obvious answer for ‘a go’ or ‘no go’ policyon nuclear energy. It is ultimately a matter ofpolitical decision with the support of a strongpublic opinion if any government like Malaysiawishes to go for it in our energy mix.Ir. Ahmad bin Tamby KadirMySET Coucil MemberFuture Events 8Contact 8

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