On March 11, 2011, The Fukushima Prefecture in Japan was struck by a triple disaster: An earthquake, a tsunami and the subsequent nuclear melt-down at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. It quickly turned into the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986, and just as quickly, it became an international affair, with specialists from many countries assisting the Japanese.
Stock prices of several companies which relied on nuclear sources, decreased, while an increase was seen in the stock prices of companies which use or encourage renewable energy. At the same time, people took to the streets, protesting against the inherent dangers of nuclear power.
Public protests were conducted in many countries, including France, Germany, India, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Taiwan, and The United States.
Globally, nuclear energy has become widespread. The Fukushima disaster prompted many countries to review emergency preparedness procedures in their own nuclear facilities. Some countries made changes to their nuclear programs, other countries decided to continue with their nuclear power plans, and others took a middle road – vowing to curtail their dependency on nuclear power.
Japan itself shut down all their nuclear plants after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, shutting the last reactor down on September 15, 2013, as CNN reports.
This has not helped solve the conflict between Japanese government, industry and environmentalists, as, without civilian nuclear power, Japan is heading for more, if different, problems, according to The Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA)’s 2013 Annual Report (Chapter III):
Without nuclear power, Japan has been importing fossil fuels for electricity generation, resulting in increased greenhouse gas emissions, significant increases in energy costs and a trade deficit for the third consecutive year.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been pressed by Japanese businesses to restart Japan’s nuclear power, and, by April 2014, his Cabinet decided to re-start Japanese nuclear power plants, which pass new strict tests, as reported by the Japan Times. The Cabinet’s new energy policy further states, that the government will focus as much as possible on the development of alternative energy sources, such as wind, geothermal heat and solar power, but that nuclear power is vital for the Japanese economy.
By July 2014, two nuclear power plants passed the new tests. However, an actual re-start date may not be before the winter of 2015, according to Reuters on August 5, 2014. The Japanese population is divided on re-starting / continuing nuclear power – torn between concern for Japan’s economy, environmental concerns and safety, as per a poll conducted by The Asahi Shimbun in July 2014.
In view of the above, here is a list of some countries and their respective ‘post-Fukushima’ stance regarding nuclear power:
The Fukushima nuclear disaster notwithstanding, growing demands for affordable electricity has spurred increasing interest in nuclear energy throughout Africa, despite some critics, according to a July2013 article in the International Business Times.
All new nuclear facilities being build in Africa will conform to the new, strict safety and security measurers, which the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has been introducing world-wide.
In December 2010, Kenya’s government officially announced that Kenya will go nuclear, as reported by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and since 2012, Kenya has received support and training from the IAEA, as a July 31, 2014 article from the IAEA states.
The Kenyan public is not entirely in accordance with their government on this issue, according to a July 24, 2013 in the International Business Times. But, so far, Kenya’s nuclear plans will go ahead.
NIGER / ECOWAS
The Chernobyl accident and recently Fukushima can not make us abandon this choice…
In May 2011, F. Erepamo Osaisai, the Chairman and Chief Executive of Nigeria Atomic Energy Commission, presented Nigeria’s nuclear plans, as seen in this International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) PDF document, at the Second Regional Conference on Energy and Nuclear Power in Africa. The conference was hosted in Cape Town, South Africa.
Nigeria’s first nuclear reactor is scheduled to begin operating around 2020, according to an April 2014 article in This Day, Nigeria’s leading newspaper.
The IAEA will train up more people at the Nigerian Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NNRA) in areas of nuclear safety.
South Africa has two nuclear reactors, according to a September 2014 update from the World Nuclear Association (WNA). and more are planned.
The South African Nuclear Energy Corporation SOC Limited (NESCA) signed an agreement with Russia in November, 2013, to develop a partnership that would include building more nuclear power plants in South Africa.
Argentina, which fortunately is not earthquake-prone, is still strong on nuclear power, and continues to build more nuclear power plants, encouraged by increasing demands. he country has three nuclear plants, and is planning a fourth, to be completed in 2016 or 2017. President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and her government are aiming to supply at least 15% of Argentina’s electricity from nuclear power by 2025, thus cutting down on the country’s dependency on fossil fuels, according to an article in World Policy Institute on May 14, 2012.
In October, 2010, Bolivia was planning to develop nuclear power, but after the nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Bolivia cancelled all plans involving nuclear power, according to an article in World Policy Institute on May 14, 2012.
Brazil is not earthquake-prone, and the Brazilian government sees nuclear power as an important part of the country’s future energy supplies. The government expects a large increase in Brazil ‘s demand for electricity for decades to come. The country also wants to use its huge uranium deposits (a natural radioactive metal used as a fuel in nuclear reactors).
Leonam Guimaraes, a high-level Brazilian nuclear official, stated:
We’re going to need more nuclear, coal, and thermal energy. Nuclear energy is going to come back into focus soon.
Brazil’s third nuclear reactor is being built, and is scheduled to be completed in 2015, bringing nuclear energy up to cover about three percent of the country’s energy usage, according to an article in World Policy Institute on May 14, 2012
In early 2012, the Brazilian government halted plans for four new reactors for 18 months, in order to implement the new higher safety measures for both existing and future nuclear plants.
The Canadian government launched a review of their own nuclear facilities, and, by August 2013, they had strengthened safety measures and emergency response, and enhanced communication and public education, as per the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission in October 2013.
Chilean President Sebastián Piñera continued to push for nuclear power in Chile, despite that country’s share of yearly earthquakes. However, strong and steady pressure from the Chilean public caused the Chilean government, in October 2011, to abandon plans of nuclear power, according to an article in World Policy Institute on May 14, 2012, quoting Chilean Energy Minister Rodrigo Alvarez Zenteno:
We will not build, we will not plan and we will not define anything relative to nuclear energy policy in Chile during this government.
According to an article in World Policy Institute on May 14, 2012, Cuba had originally signed an agreement with the Soviet Union to build two nuclear reactors. However, the Soviet Union collapsed in 1992, and construction of Cuba’s reactors stopped, as Cuba lost the aid it had previously received from the Soviet Union. Several attempts at re-starting the project have failed, and, in 2000, Cuba and Russia agreed to cancel the project. Then came the nuclear disaster in Fukushima, and Cuba cancelled plans for a nuclear power future.
According to an article in Bloomberg News on Nov 3, 2011, Mexico has reined in the country’s plans to expand nuclear power. The country is scrapping plans to build 10 new nuclear power plants, and will instead focus on natural gas-fired electricity plants. Mexico’s Energy Minister Jordy Herrera said in a Nov. 1 interview:
[Mexico is] changing all its decisions, amid the very abundant existence of natural-gas deposits.
THE UNITED STATES
The American government improved on their safety measures for their nuclear power plants.
The majority of the American public still considers nuclear plants safe and secure, though they do favor an electricity mix of nuclear, coal, solar, and wind – power, as the World Nuclear Association (WNA) states in their August 2014 update.
A small country with limited options to generate electricity, Uruguay banned nuclear power by law by law in the late 1990’s.
After the nuclear disaster in Fukushima, it is highly unlikely that that law will be revoked any time soon.
Just the same, Uruguay’s government submitted exploratory plans for nuclear power to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in February 2011, according to an article in World Policy Institute on May 14, 2012.
Venezuela had signed an agreement with Russia, for Russia to build a nuclear power plant in Venezuela, when the nuclear disaster in Fukushima hit. Venezuela’s government cancelled the nuclear plans, according to an article in World Policy Institute on May 14, 2012.
ASIA & PACIFIC:
Australia is rich on uranium mines, and exports uranium (a natural radioactive metal used as a fuel in nuclear reactors) to several countries, although the Australian government has no plans to build nuclear power plants.
On March 22, 2011, the Prime Minister of Australia, Julia Gillard told Reuters that:
I don’t see nuclear energy as part of our future. We are blessed with abundant sources of renewable energy, of clean energy, of solar, wind, tide, hot rocks. That’s our future, not nuclear…
There are, however, those in the Australian government, who would welcome civilian nuclear power, as part of an effort to counter climate change.
According to CNN, the state-run news-media Xinhua, reported, that by March 16, 2011, the Chinese government suspended approvals of new nuclear plants, in order to review safety standards. The Chinese government also ordered safety checks at existing nuclear plants. The plants were found to be safe.
The Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) stated onMonday, March 14, 2011 that safety measures in India’s nuclear plants have been reviewed, and the nuclear plants are still safe, according to an updated February 14, 2012 article in The Hindu. NPCIL also pointed out that:
Despite a major earthquake in Bhuj on January 26, 2001, the Kakrapar Atomic Power Station near Surat in Gujarat continued to operate safely. Similarly, during the tsunami in Tamil Nadu in December 2004, the Madras Atomic Power Station (MAPS) was safely shut down without any radiological consequences. The plant was restarted in a matter of days after regulatory review.
The Chinese / International Xinhua News reported that, on Thursday, March 17, 2011, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cancelled plans to develop civilian nuclear power in Israel.
However, according to The Times Of Israel, the country does have a nuclear facility, which, in March 2014, seems to have become inveigled in a local property tax dispute.
The Associated Press of Pakistan reported on March 15, 2011, that The Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) said that Pakistan’s nuclear plants are safe. PAEC’s statement continues:
Over the years, the plant safety has also been assessed by experts from International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO). Any lessons learnt from the accidents in Japan will be implemented at our plants as well.
Taiwan has suspended plans to build more nuclear power plant, according to an Apr 12, 2011 article in Bloomberg News.
Taiwan Power Co, or Taipower, as the utility is called, has stalled on expansions since the 1980’s on account of concerns over safety issues, as well as rising costs.
Taipower’s Chief Engineer Roger Lee said:
If there’s something we haven’t done enough, we’ll improve ….. Taipower may increase natural gas generators to make up for the stalled plans to expand reactors.
The Turkish Government is still committed to building the country’s first nuclear power plant. Nuclear power is seen as important for economic growth in Turkey, which imports most of its energy, including almost all of the oil and gas used in Turkey.
According to a May 2014 update from the World Nuclear Association (WNA):
In November 2013 the [International Atomic Energy Agency] IAEA conducted an Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review (INIR) in Turkey to assess the country’s progress in preparing for the new nuclear power program.
Kuwait had been planning to build four nuclear power plants, having signed a civil nuclear power cooperation agreement with Japan.
But, as The Japan Times reported on Thursday, February 23, 2012; in July 2011, Kuwait’s Emir Sabah al-Ahmed al-Sabah ordered Kuwait’s nuclear plans cancelled.
According to Osama Al-Sayegh, a research scientist at the Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research, the cancellation was partly because of strong public opposition, generated by the Fukushima nuclear disaster, and partly because of a problem of where Kuwait could store radioactive waste.
The Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety reported, that, on March 25, 2011, The European Council, under the European Union (EU), decided that all EU nuclear plants should undergo a comprehensive risk and safety check. This check has since been dubbed The European Stress Test.
While the Belgium public remains divided between no nuclear energy on the one hand, and the higher costs and more pollution from fossil fuels on the other hand, the Belgium government is going ahead with their nuclear phase-out plan, as the World Nuclear Association (WNA) states in their July 2014 update.
As reported in the 2013 Annual Report (Chapter III) from The Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) , the updated phase-out law was approved by parliament in December 2013.
The French government remains in favor of nuclear power, but the majority of the public is vehemently against. The debate was further complicated by most of the public also being against rising energy cost, which would be the consequence of decreasing France’s dependency on nuclear power, according to an April 13, 2011 article in Reuters.
A compromise seems to have been reached in September 2013, with legislation to reduce nuclear power in France by a third by 2025, according to the 2013 Annual Report (Chapter III) from The Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA).
The German public was pressing their government to end nuclear power before the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
After the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the German government stepped up safety measures for their nuclear plants, and agreed to phase out nuclear power. The phase out is due to be completed by 2022, according to a May 31, 2011 article in the Sydney Morning Herald.
As reported by the BBC on June 14, 2011, Italy abandoned nuclear power after the Chernobyl disaster in 1986, and, although Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi wanted to start up nuclear power in Italy, more than 90% of the public voted an resounding no.
The Italian government accepted the vote, and Italy remains nuclear free.
The Dutch public increasingly support nuclear power, as do Dutch politicians, as reported in a June 2014 update from the World Nuclear Association (WNA).
The Netherlands has only one nuclear power plant, but the government approved a second reactor in January 2012. Construction is scheduled to be completed by 2023, according to a 2012 country profile from The Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA).
Russia is still going strong on nuclear power, both nationally and internationally.
After the Fukushima nuclear disaster, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin ordered a safety check on Russian nuclear facilities, as reported by Reuters on Tuesday Mar 15, 2011.
Russia has no plans to curb nuclear power.
The official Russian Federation national nuclear corporation, ROSATOM State Atomic Energy Corporation, develops nuclear power plants world-wide, in the civilian and defense sectors, in partnership with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), The Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA), and other international organizations.
On 16 March, 2011, the Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero ordered a review of Spain’s nuclear power plants, according to the CNN.
Besides plans for more uranium mining (a natural radioactive metal used as a fuel in nuclear reactors), the Spanish government has (reluctantly) decided to continue with nuclear power, as alternatives become more and more unaffordable for the country, as the World Nuclear Association (WNA) states in their August 2014 update.
The Swedish government in 1980 stated to phase-out nuclear power, but that effort was abandoned in June 2010.
The Swedish public has been divided on the issue since before 2010, and they are still divided, but, if nothing else, they are consistent in how they are divided.
Since the 1980’s, 60% to 70% of the population remain in favor of nuclear power, with about half wanting to replace existing reactors, and the other half wanting to keep using existing reactors, while the last 30% to 40% want to phase-out nuclear power.
Sweden has 10 operating nuclear reactors, according to a June 2014 update from the World Nuclear Association (WNA)
The Swedish government, like most other nations using nuclear energy, checked up on their safety measures.
In May, 2211, in Switzerland, around 20,000 people marched – peacefully – demonstrating against nuclear power in Switzerland, as reported by Bloomberg Businessweek on May 22, 2011.
This was the largest demonstration yet, in a country, where the population had long remained divided on the issue.
A few days after the demonstration, the Swiss government decided to phase-out nuclear power by not approve the building of new power plants, and letting existing power plants run till they age out (a nuclear reactor’s ‘lifespan’ is approximately 50 years). The last Swiss nuclear reactor would then be shut down around 2034. This would also give Switzerland time to develop other ways of producing energy.
A new government took office in December 2011, but it appears, according to a May 2014 update from the World Nuclear Association (WNA), that by May 2014, Switzerland is still on track to phase-out nuclear power.
Public opinion in the UK is mostly in favor of nuclear power, and has remained so after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, as a survey conducted by the Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) in March 2014 shows.
While the UK is looking to develop other energy sources, nuclear power remains an important part of the UK’s energy-mix, according to a September 2014 update from the World Nuclear Association (WNA).
Nuclear power also has strong political support across Britain’s three main parties.
For a list of countries, which are members of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), go to the Member States of the IAEA
For a list of countries, which are members of The Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA), go to NEA’s About Us