Nuclear power at 'pre-Fukushima state', says leading Russian scientist

10 March 2015

Experts agree that the global nuclear power industry has returned to its "pre-Fukushima state" and pessimistic forecasts of a slowdown in its development have not materialized, Leonid Bolshov, director of the Nuclear Safety Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences (IBRAE RAN), said in an interview with Russian news agency RIA Novosti.

According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, there are 440 nuclear power units in operation and a further 68 are under construction.

"Calls for the abandonment of nuclear power crop up every now and then in different countries, but these are, as a rule, the result of short-term political speculation and go against the everyday needs of national economies," Bolshov said.

Japan's initial reaction to the Fukushima Daiichi accident of March 2011, to "reject" nuclear power, was based on a "state of fear", he said. And the "emotional" response against nuclear power in some other countries was "unfortunately tied to politics".

Japan's decision to take its nuclear power plants offline damaged its economy – its GDP started to fall and it had to import liquefied natural gas and coal as alternative sources of electricity generation, he said. The industrial and financial sectors "put pressure on the government" and there was a change of cabinet, which is now taking decisions on how to restart Japan's nuclear power plants, he said. But the country's nuclear regulatory system has been radically restructured in two important respects – tougher safety standards and the requirement that local prefectures must agree to the restart of reactors.

The process of building new nuclear power plants in the world has been resumed and is growing, he said.

"China, which halted new construction after Fukushima, carefully considered the safety issues and banned the construction of plants of the second generation and allows only third generation and three-plus generation projects – which meet higher safety standards," he said.

Germany's announcement in 2011 that it would phase out nuclear power was part of a "specific political process in a rich country", he said. That country has decided to increase its share of renewable energy while at the same time importing nuclear power produced by neighbouring countries, he said.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News