Prospects for nuclear energy in the enlarged EU

Příspěvek poslance Evropského parlamentu Dr. Gordona Adama na zasedání European Nuclear Council 10.5.2004 v Helsinkách.

Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen.
May I begin by thanking you for the invitation to take part in this Council meeting and for the opportunity to address you this evening.

For the past 25 years I have been an active member of the European Parliament on energy issues. I am regarded by some colleagues as a nuclear fanatic. It is true that I support nuclear power, but I much prefer to consider myself as an energy fanatic. My view is that the world’s energy needs cannot be met by limiting the range of sources. As time passes and demand increases, the contribution of nuclear, oil, gas, coal, hydro and renewables will all continue to be needed, with fusion and hydrogen on the horizon.
Let me remind you in broad outline of the World Energy Outlook 2002 published by the International Energy Agency.
Over the next 30 years the world population will increase from 6 billion to just over 8 billion. Global primary energy demand will grow by 60 to 70%, and 90% of this increase will come from fossil fuels. Gas consumption will double, with new power stations taking up 60% of the increase. This scenario indicates an increase in carbon dioxide emissions of 60%, of which 75% will come from power generation and transport. The decline in nuclear power generation is another factor.
There are an estimated 1.6 billion people who do not have access to electricity. That figure will fall to 1.4 billion. Traditional biomass – wood, agricultural residues and dung – is the fuel used for cooking and heating by 2.4 billion people in developing countries. This figure increases to 2.6 billion.
That is the background against which we have to examine the prospects for nuclear energy.

The Environmental Dimension
Do you remember where you were on 26th April 1986? You will readily recognise the date. It was the day of the nuclear incident at Chernobyl. An event which has had a remarkable effect on the energy industry. I remember where I was. I was here in Helsinki. For the record, I was taking part as the Vice-Chairman in the European Parliament/EFTA Parliamentary Committee, in the days before Finland and Sweden had joined the European Union. I cannot recall anything about our deliberations on that occasion, but I do recall our reaction to the news of the disaster. We passed a resolution. But neither do I recall what the resolution said.
When the history of our times is written, it may be, I emphasise the ‘may’, that that single catastrophe, and its impact on public opinion, may go down as the moment when environmental concerns turned from scientific analysis to political emotion. To put this another way, it may be seen as the moment when public opinion decided that risk was no longer acceptable and sought a ‘risk free’ society. This is an unattainable "holy grail". It is anti-science.
Barely two years earlier, in the 1984 elections, the first Green members were elected to the European Parliament. Though few in number, they made a big political impact, backed as they were by the whole apparatus of Greenpeace International. This is an organisation of huge resources which can be focussed on a political issue, rather like the way mirrors can be used to focus the sun’s rays and cause destruction.
At each successive European parliament election the number of Green members has increased. So too has the number of fellow travellers which they have attracted from other political groups, especially on nuclear issues.
In the 1984 parliament the anti-nuclear forces could be easily outvoted, but as time has passed the nuclear majority has diminished to the level of uncertainty. On a nuclear issue it is no longer possible to be certain of a positive vote in the Parliament.
The anti-nuclear forces are similarly stronger in national governments. Every red/green coalition government in Europe has a Green Environment Minister. The Green influences are stronger in national administrations, in what we would call in Britain the civil service. The Green influences in the European Commission are immeasurably stronger.
Some of this influence, which is based on science, is to be welcomed. But much of it is based not on science but on a perverse idea of the relationship between mankind and the world we inhabit.
Let me try to spell this out.
As human beings we are totally dependent on the earth’s resources. Everything we eat, everything we make, everything we have comes out of the earth. We have built our civilisation, our standard of living out of the earth. We exploit nature. We exploit nature because we have the brainpower to understand how the natural world works and how we can use it to our advantage. We do not live by "preserving the earth". We do not live by "saving the planet". We exploit the planet, and the more intelligently we are able to exploit the planet, the higher our standard of living. This is true whether we are thinking nuclear, or oil, or gas, or coal, or hydro, or renewables.
It is my judgement that the politics of the European Union are ever more firmly in the grip of what I call environmental terrorism. A small, tightly-knit, highly organised, unrepresentative and undemocratic organisation has hijacked the agenda, deliberately misusing science and the mass media to spread unwarranted fear and alarm, in order to achieve their own political goals.

The Challenge Facing the Nuclear Industry
The nuclear industry still suffers from its military genesis. And from the political secrecy that the political system with notions of national security imposed on it. Its ability to contribute to electricity production was oversold and the issue of handling spent fuel and nuclear waste not sufficiently understood at the beginning. Strategic political issues allowed such matters to be pushed to one side.
The Euratom Treaty is key to the control of nuclear weapons grade material, along with the role of the International Atomic Energy Agency. It did and does have two weaknesses which have become more apparent with time. The first is the over-optimistic assessment of the contribution of nuclear power, and the second is the legislative protection it gives to governments in terms of control of their own nuclear plant. Operational safety and the management of nuclear material is, as a result, less subject to European legislation than other industries. A matter which the European Commission has focussed on in recent proposals and which has also given a political lever for the Greens to exploit. Only last week in the final debate of the current European Parliament there was a call from the Greens for the Euratom Treaty to be included in the draft Constitutional Treaty. The issue of legislation is complicated by the fact that both sides of the nuclear debate favour legislation, but with different motives. Proposals to ring fence de-commissioning funds come from those who seek to impose greater financial burdens on the industry. The pressure to reduce emissions of technetium 99 from Sellafield is an instance where it is doubtful if any real medical or environmental benefit will be obtained. But there will be an additional cost.
The development of the internal market in electricity in the name of competition and lower electricity prices has given rise to a serious question mark about the ability of nuclear power to compete with other forms of electricity production. Add to that the moves towards privatisation and the targets to promote the contribution from renewable energy and you have a situation where the electricity playing field is skewed to the point of dizziness, rather than being the level playing field that it supposedly is. The electricity market is skewed against production systems with high capital costs requiring long-term contracts. All this, together with the issues of operational safety which I mentioned earlier, make for an uncertain nuclear future.
The most perverse of all these factors is the refusal to accept the contribution that nuclear power can make to the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions. Unless you believe that the current nuclear output AND the additional electricity requirements for the next 30 years, unless you believe these can be met by renewables and improved energy efficiency then it is crystal clear that carbon dioxide emissions will increase over that period.
It is doubly perverse since it is now accepted that increasing the contribution of renewables will result in an increase in electricity costs, yet higher cost is one of the charges frequently levelled against nuclear.
Perhaps most perverse of all is the notion that electricity consumption can be decoupled from economic development or GDP. It is true that energy intensity is being reduced, but if you listen to some of the political rhetoric that I have heard in recent years you would imagine that GDP can be increased and electricity consumption reduced at the same time. I do not believe it.

Responding to the Challenge
Part of the response can be to point out that there are obviously beneficial applications for nuclear energy, medical being the most obvious.
One could also mention such uses as making the plastic coating stick to Teflon pans, or to improve crop yields and tackling other problems linked to hunger.
More specifically, there are three broad ways in which the nuclear industry should respond to the challenge. One technical, one political and one a mixture of the two.
The technical matters relate to the whole area of design and operation of nuclear plant and the treatment and disposal of nuclear material. A key feature is clearly the matter of cost, which relates to the design and speed of construction.
The technical co-operation of all the nuclear expertise in the EU would seem to me to offer a better prospect than the different companies competing for a currently limited market. To my knowledge the location of further new build in Europe will come in the accession countries, with Lithuania, Romania and Bulgaria the most likely possibilities. Last week Ukraine announced an intention to complete reactor 3 at Khmelnitsky. There is also a campaign to build a replacement reactor at Chapelcross in Scotland.
Here my concept would be the nuclear equivalent of the European Airbus, perhaps the prototype could be the European Pressurised Water Reactor that TVO have selected for its Olkiluoto 3 plant. There will also be an opportunity in the Generation IV consortium to advance such an idea.
There is a need for the industry to be seen to bring together the improved safety performance and plant productivity, which have been such a strong characteristic of the industry’s achievements over the past 10 years. Availability has increased from 71% to 84%, equivalent to new reactors with a total output of 34 GigaWatts.
The technical/political response comes in the battle to restore public confidence in the safety of the industry. The shadow of Chernobyl cannot be erased, but it can be lightened. The basis for this lies in the International Atomic Energy Agency and the body of nuclear regulators, currently WENRA and CONCERT. The standards that are applied to ensure safety have to operate on a global basis and be seen to be enforced. There is little sense in establishing publicly acceptable standards in the European Union while ignoring what is happening in Russia, where 15 RBMK reactors are still operating, Ukraine or elsewhere in the world. It means that the industry and national governments should accept the need for European legislation and the addition of international supervision or peer review. I believe that for practical purposes this is already in place, but it is not in place in public perception and that has to be changed.
Most important in relation to safety is the challenge to put in place international actions to deal with the management of spent fuel and high-level radioactive waste. I see this as the absolute key to success for nuclear power in the future. There is not all that much of it. It is relatively easy to contain the radioactivity. Perversely, the Greens try hard, certainly in the European Parliament, to frustrate any potential breakthrough. They do not want a solution, because a solution would undermine what they see as their main weapon. Every effort must be made to speed up the building of geological repositories. I particularly like the recent proposal of the Director General of the IAEA, Dr. El Baradei, that the production of new fuels, the processing of weapons grade material and the disposal of radioactive waste should be brought under multinational control, possibly in a limited number of regional centres. Anti-nuclear campaigners have had this field to themselves for too long.
The third area is wholly political. The nuclear industry is not alone. It is not the only industry which is under the Greenpeace microscope. Coal, gas, oil, chemicals, biotechnology, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, genetically modified plants and food products, animal husbandry, fishing. There is hardly an industrial activity that escapes.
Industry as whole has to unite against these attacks. The big danger is that Greenpeace does not attack industry as a whole. Individual sectors are taken on separately and it is easy for those not under scrutiny to relax.
The main battleground is in the European Parliament, and for the nuclear industry it must be the focus of a sustained activity. Do not be under any illusion. Every report that goes through the Parliament is scrutinised to see if there is an opportunity for the expression of anti-nuclear opinion. If approved, these comments can and often are endlessly quote as the opinion of the European Parliament. It is easy for Greenpeace with their huge resources – it is difficult for members and the industry to monitor. That is why the activities of Foratom are so important and the formation of the Nuclear All Party Group – which owes much to the support of members from the accession countries – will bring a new dimension to political activity after the forthcoming elections. A similar group is also operating at Westminster in Britain, with the support of the Nuclear Industry Association (previously the British Nuclear Forum). There is a case to encourage similar groups in all countries with nuclear installations and for their efforts to be co-ordinated by Foratom. The battleground has been identified.

A Nuclear Climate Change
You will have understood that I am not one of those who believe that our future electricity requirements and the replacement of current nuclear capacity can be met by increased energy efficiency and renewable energy sources, mainly wind.
Energy efficiency always makes sense both in economic and environmental terms. But it is not an energy source: it can work the other way. Energy efficiency reduces the cost of energy and thereby releases resources which can be used for more production, say, or more heat in the home, with consequent consumption increase.
There is no sign that our use of electrical appliances is going to reduce. We could use our cars less and make more use of bicycles, or even walk. We could take fewer flights, heat our homes less. More people could live in the same house. It would even help if we did not live so long. I cannot see any of this happening.
Renewables will have an important role. I do not doubt that. But they do have limitations. I would not choose to have an operation in a hospital run only on wind power. It is a feature, especially when renewable sources are intermittent and uncontrollable, that a grid connection is also installed.
The cost of back-up supply has been taken into account in a recent report by the U.K. Royal Academy of Engineering, which gives a much more favourable assessment of nuclear costs.
I am particularly pleased to be in Helsinki for this Council meeting. I hope that it might mark a moment when the anti-nuclear tide begins to turn. The developments in the nuclear industry in Finland are the most exciting happening in the nuclear industry in Europe at the present time. There has been real leadership, a willingness to address difficult questions and an ability to engage effectively with public opinion.
I do not know if carbon dioxide is responsible for climate change.
I do not know if we are able to control the climate. I do know that without nuclear power any hope of reducing carbon dioxide emissions is an illusion.
I do know that we need a change in the nuclear climate and I wish every success to our Finnish colleagues and to the whole European nuclear industry in the efforts being made to achieve this.
Thank you for listening.

Zdroj: Foratom

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