Academic journal article International Issues & Slovak Foreign Policy Affairs

Future of Nuclear Power Engineering after Fukushima Accident

Academic journal article International Issues & Slovak Foreign Policy Affairs

Future of Nuclear Power Engineering after Fukushima Accident

Article excerpt

Abstract:

Less than one hour after the March 11, 2011 earthquake a massive tsunami inundated the nuclear site at Fukushima Daiichi with seawater. The damage caused by the flooding of the site resulted in loss of cooling to the three reactor units causing release of radioactive material to the environment. The nuclear accident was classified at Level 7. There are no doubts that many countries after the detailed analyze of Fukushima accident reconsider their energy policy and the oldest nuclear power plants will be closed or new projects will be postponed. Very important in these considerations will be the industrial status and outlook to the next decades.

Fukushima accident as a milestone in nuclear safety development

On March 11, 2011 Japan suffered a magnitude 9 earthquake, the largest ever recorded in the country. At the time of the accident, three of the site's nuclear reactor units (reactors 1 -3] were operating at power. Reactor 4 was refueling, and reactors 5 and ? were shut down for maintenance. Reactors 1 -3 were automatically shut down when the earthquake occurred. However, less than one hour after the earthquake, a massive tsunami generated by the earthquake inundated the nuclear site at Fukushima Daiichi with seawater. The damage caused by the flooding of the site resulted in loss of cooling to the three reactor units. This led to overheating, hydrogen explosions and melting of the core of the three reactors. As a consequence, there were major releases of radioactive material into the environment. These releases were initially into the ain but subsequently there were also radioactive releases into the sea through the discharge of water used to cool the reactors and the spent fuel ponds. The nuclear accident was classified at Level 7, the highest on the International Nuclear Event Scale [INES].1

This was the first time multiple units [3] were damaged by a common source. It happened in a technically highly developed country, 25 years after the Chernobyl accident, in spite of the huge scope of measures and improvements in nuclear safety management. Nobody died or became sick due to irradiation, nevertheless, the costs connected to decommissioning and revita lization of the region will be enormous. Fears, supported and distributed by different media, destroyed the fragile balance of nuclear energy acceptance by the public in many countries.

Goals towards a decarbonized economy

The easiest way to replace nuclear power plants [NPP] is with gas, oil or coal combustion. Plenty of new combustion units have been built over the past months: blench C02 production, global warming, etc. A proper energy mix [including nuclear power] was predicted for the following decades as an optimal way towards a worldwide decarbonized economy. The European Union has set a specific goal to achieve a decarbonized economy by 2050, and the European Commission's [EC's] Energy roadmap 2050, which was published on December 15, 2011, explores five scenarios for achieving the decarbonization of the EU's energy system2 with the following statement:

Costs will have a huge impact on the final price of electricity to be paid by European businesses and households. Total energy costs are lowest in those scenarios of the EC's Energy Roadmap 2050 that have the highest nuclear share.

The results of the public consultation on the Energy Roadmap 2050 indicate that "about half of all respondents believe that global fossil fuel prices in relation to costs of domestic energy resources and long-term security of supply will be the most likely key drivers of the future European energy mix." The Roadmap focuses mainly on the EU's energy policy goal of decarbonizing the economy, and understates the other primary objectives of security of supply and competitiveness. The radical revolution through which the energy sector will have to go implies profound changes in many areas of European society. One of the factors limiting broader deployment of nuclear is public acceptance. …

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