The Japanese nuclear disaster has focused attention onand nuclear power's role as a source of .
Now is an opportune moment forand the , in particular, to undertake a thorough re-examination of their and to develop to address both .
In, a nation with minimal indigenous fossil fuel supplies, nuclear power generates about 35 percent of the nation's , using 54 nuclear reactors. ranks third behind the and in the amount of produced by . Currently, the , the largest consumer of , produces 20 percent of it from 104 reactors, while a fleet of 58 reactors in provides 78 percent of the country's .
Without question, events of the past weeks call for a re-examination of the role of nuclear power in theof these countries and all the nations currently using or planning to produce .
Analysts predict that the world'swill increase by an average of 2.3 percent per year from 2007 to 2035, with large increases in and driving this trend. In the , the generation of consumes 40 percent of the nation's . The sources for producing in the are coal (48 percent), (18 percent), nuclear (22 percent) and renewables, including hydro, solar, wind, biomass (11 percent).
Nuclear power offers almost zero carbon emissions and, once plants become operational, relatively low costs for operation, maintenance and fuel. Before the Japanese disaster, the largest hurdle for nuclear power was the cost of building and financing plants. The estimated cost of a single reactor varies fromto That means they must be financed by debt and equity. The lending and investment communities, already nervous about nuclear power, have become even more cautious since the Japanese crisis.
In 2005, theprovided minimal funds (about $6 billion) toward construction of the first new reactors and in loan guarantees to assist companies in obtaining financing for new plants. This is in contrast to and , whose governments have played a major role in financing the development of nuclear power in their respective countries.
As concerns about the safety of nuclear reactors and spent fuel storage emerge, several factors should be considered. It will be difficult for the countries generating substantial portions of theirfrom nuclear plants to close existing plants. will likely reassess its goal of increasing nuclear-generated to 50 percent. It will probably increase its dependence on imports of to produce . In the , the emphasis on reducing government spending and the reticence of the financial community to invest in new nuclear plants will slow any resurgence of nuclear power.
The Japanese disaster highlights the liabilities of nuclear power. But nois problem-free. In the global environment, has become the oxycodone of , providing short-term relief of pain, while coal remains energy's heroin with a global community of addicts.
Given the current state ofand the increasing demand for , we must explore that embrace all sources of , including nuclear power. This will require nations to examine and develop all the sources available to them with the goal of protecting the environment while supporting the activities of their citizens.
The demand and sources will vary from country to country, as will the degree of cooperation between theand the private sector. In the , the development of a must receive a higher priority in the political agenda if we are to maintain a viable society, a strong economy and a habitable environment. This policy must include a levy of some kind on carbon emissions to encourage fossil fuel alternatives and for the long-term protection of the environment. Failure to address these only makes them greater.