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Stuart Burns

Stuart Burns

Stuart is a writer for MetalMiner who operate the largest metals-related media site in the US according to third party ranking sites. With a preemptive…

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Does Nuclear Energy have a Future in Europe

The game has changed for the nuclear industry post-Fukushima, at least in the Western world, if not globally. After previous nuclear incidents, there usually was a pause while national bodies reviewed the reasons for the event and upgraded safety standards, but the Fukushima incident seems to be impacting Europe much like Three Mile Island did the US.

Germany, one of Europe’s biggest operators of nuclear power, used to run 17 reactors until Berlin closed four of them in July and committed to closing the rest by 2022. Belgium is looking to accelerate the closure of its seven plants and Switzerland is going the way of Germany. Even in France, where nuclear power generates more than 75 percent of electricity, the new socialist contenders for next year’s elections campaign on a platform that includes a drastic drop in nuclear-generating capacity to below 50%.

Who Benefits and Who Suffers?

As a result, not just generators are feeling the winds of change. Siemens pulled out of a technology joint venture with Russia’s Rosatom to develop new nuclear technologies. Recognizing that any new plants are likely to be in emerging markets, firms like France’s Aerva have started work on the Atmea, a smaller, cheaper reactor, in partnership with Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries rather than relying solely on the firms’ technologically advanced but high-cost EPR reactor design, best suited to highly regulated markets within Europe.

Likewise, Rosatom, which since Fukushima has continued securing new orders from China, Vietnam, Belarus and Bangladesh, is seeking new technology partners that can help it develop safer, more robust systems without pricing itself out of a market which will soon be competing with Chinese as well as existing South Korean manufacturers. Although Rosatom has a monopoly over Russia’s 11 civilian nuclear power plants and accounts for one-fifth of new reactors under construction worldwide, Sergei Kirienko, Rosatom’s president, admitted last week that there is a risk of world demand for nuclear reactors collapsing after Fukushima, saying competition has been much tougher.

For now, Britain is holding to its ambitious program for 12 new reactors by 2025, needed (the conservative part says) as part of a wholesale restructuring of Britain’s electricity market aimed at helping the country meet tough carbon reduction targets, as well as keep the lights on. However, start dates keep slipping back and although some operators have committed to land purchases for the new sites, no one believes the first plant will be operational by the previously stated date of 2018. Nor are the conservative coalition partners the Liberal Democrats on board with the plans for nuclear power, much preferring to push for wind or renewable power plants in spite of growing evidence they cannot meet base-load requirements.

Not surprisingly, the share price of both nuclear power-generating companies and manufacturers of nuclear power plants has underperformed in an already falling market. The future is unlikely to be quite as dire as some currently fear, but clearly growth is not going to be coming from established nuclear-producing countries such as the US, Europe or Japan. It will come from emerging markets desperate to reduce reliance on coal-fired power generation — and for whom the level of technological sophistication won’t be required to be as high as it is for Europe.

By. Stuart Burns


(www.agmetalminer.com) MetalMiner is the largest metals-related media site in the US according to third party ranking sites. With a preemptive global perspective on the issues, trends, strategies, and trade policies that will impact how you source and/or trade metals and related metals services, MetalMiner provides unique insight, analysis, and tools for buyers, purchasing professionals, and everyone else for whom metals and their related markets matter.

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  • Anonymous on November 24 2011 said:
    Well, I don't agree with much of this. Switzerland is not going to do without nuclear, no matter what they say, and a very smart gentleman from Belgium said that if the Germans close all their reactors, Belgium will probably have to ration energy.I must admit however that all this talk about doing without nuclear is depressing. I am going to give a brilliant lecture soon on nuclear, but I wonder how it will sound to the ears of people who are completely and totally without a background in conventional energy economics.How is it possible that intelligent people, many of them with degrees in engineering or analytical economics, are completely without the ability to understand what is at stake here.
  • Anonymous on November 25 2011 said:
    Hey Fred, with regard to nuclear power, what happens when the 'intelligent' meets the visceral...? Most opposition to nukes like my own is visceral. However many brilliant lectures you may give on it you will never remove the shadow of Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Chernobyl from the visceral 'calculus...'.
  • Anonymous on November 25 2011 said:
    You left Three Mile Island out, Philip: A meltdown without casualties. As for Hiroshima and Nagasaki, that was done to keep the Chinese communists - with the assistance of the Russian army - from taking all of China.If the war had lasted another month or two, that is what would have happened, and although most of the top American generals did not want Hiroshima and Nagasaki, because they knew that the war was won, the politicians decided otherwise.Better learn some history before you question my good self. People have been fooled by morons to believe that solar and wind will allow them to maintain their standards of living. That is OK with me, as long as the electricity in this country (Sweden) is available for me and not the Germans after they give up nuclear.
  • Anonymous on November 26 2011 said:
    Dear Fred, here we go again... Our readings of history are very different though I've probably learned as much about history as you have in my own way ie I'm not an academically qualified teacher/lecturer but I have an international perspective on geopolitics... As far as I'm concerned the US dropped the Bomb on Japan to prevent Stalin taking over the rest of Europe, militarily, which he didn't, rather than prevent the Chinese CP taking over China, which they did.Just to muddy the waters even further and I'm sure you'll enjoy shooting me down o this, the story is that the Bombs dropped on H and N were German bombs not US ones... (ratatatatat....)If the US didn't drop the Bomb they could have stsrved Japan into surrender by blockade... ;-)
  • Anonymous on November 26 2011 said:
    If the war in Europe had gone on Germany would had some fearsome new weapons but without oil couldn't have stiopped the Red Army. She could have destoryed the mulberries at Normandy so cutting off supplies to the Western Allied Armies and forcing an armistice in thec West before the Western Allies could get Antwerp operational. Then the Red Army would have simply thrust on to the Atlantic...in 1944/45.And as for nuc power, I'd rather have Tesla's energy from the solar energy in the atmosphere than wind and wave power. But humanity does seem ready for free energy yet-not responsible enough. And yes I did miss out Three Mile Island. But you are being intellectual whereas I'm being visceral. I don't feel humanity is responsible enough for nuclear. Any human culture that can build thousands of nukes for MAD isn't anywhere near 'sane and responsible' enough for 'peaceful' nuclear power...
  • Fred Banks on November 27 2011 said:
    Whoever you are, your interpretation of history comes from books - comic books - whereas I deal in the real thing. And listen, you can't say the things you say in those posts without intelligent people laughing at you. If you don't get anything else out of this exchange, it is in your interest to get that. "The Red Army would have..." What are you after anyway?Fred
  • Philip on November 28 2011 said:
    Well Fred 'whoever you are' Banks, i can see we're having another really intelligent exchange of 'comic book' views here. Seeing as you have never once provided any EVIDENCE to refute a single thing I've said in my posts, not once,that you simply resort to treating me like one of those 'inferior student types' you are so fond of looking down your nose at (including those of your professional peers who happen to disagree with you), I shall continue to post until you come up with something more solid than 'you can't say the things you say without intelligent peple laughing at you'. Which is a roundabout way of calling me stupid. Prove it! With solid evidence and logical argument based on experience, Or shut up... I don't mind agreeing with you when you present evidence and logical arguement based on experience, but don't gratuitously offend, it really is beneath you.
  • Philip on November 28 2011 said:
    I see that Fred got at least one favourable vote for trying to put down my post. I don't mind that. There are always some people who will object without have any evidence or information to counter with. I just upset them because I sometimes say what they don't want to hear. Fair enough. Explain to me why I'm wrong or even erroneous inmy understanding and I'll acknowledge and apologise/retract. Can't say fairer than that, can I? This website is after all about informing, educating and enlightening is it not...?
  • Philip on November 28 2011 said:
    Finally Fred, 'the Red Army would have...'Show me I'm mistaken in my understanding of this and why I'm mistaken...What am I after anyway; education and enlightenment... Aren't we all?It seems I have to educate you Fred that not everyone goes by books ('your interpretation of history comes from books - comic books - whereas I deal in the real thing') and intellectual arguement. My visceral reaction to nuclear and to the Red Army in 1945 taking Europe is viscerally real, far more real than you could possibly imagene. Fighting someone elses war (Korea) an ocean away or figuring Nuke trajectories another ocean away (Germany) is not the same as having your home and family directly threatened by physical occupation, dictaorship, starvation, torture, Gulag etc. That's visceral... Just don't get clever about visceral reactions being less worthybthan academic/intellectual arguement. OK?
  • Fred Banks on November 29 2011 said:
    Philip, I will be teaching a short course in energy economics in Spain soon, and how I would love to have you in my classroom. Of course, you wouldn't last long, because your Cold War rhetoric wouldn't wash, and I would...There was a program about the cold war, and Russian and American submarines on Swedish TV recently. American and British morons talked about Russian submarines trying to sink American merchant ships on their way to Europe loaded with pork chops and coca cola. Now that would have been a dialogue for somebody like you to take part in. Imagine, the big cities of Russia and the US smashed, and Russian submarines hunting cargo vessels.When I came to Europe with the US Army when the Cold war was at its worst, a major or colonel put it this way. "If the baloon goes up, get your rifle and your gas mask, and repeat after me: Our father..." Do you get it, do you have enough intelligence to understand why I dismiss your silly thoughts.

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