No, Nein, Bù - Nuclear Moratorium Spreads Through Europe To China

Fukushima Radiation graphic

Screen capture by daveeza via flickr and Creative Commons shows levels of radiation near the Fukushima Daiishi facility yesterday.

The slowly unfolding disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility seems to be causing more countries to take stock of safety at nuclear facilities, and/or put the brakes on approving any new nuclear power development. As we reported Monday, Switzerland and Germany were the first to reconsider nuclear energy plans. Yesterday, the European Commission followed up by ordering all EU energy companies to submit data on safety and emergency preparedness on nuclear plants. On the other side of the world, China put a 90-day halt on approval of 25 plants under construction, Taiwan said it will review its nuclear policies, South Korea is running its plants through safety checks, and the Australian Green party says a phase-out of nuclear power should happen worldwide.

"Events in Japan must spur the global community to begin the global phase-out of this toxic and obsolete technology, starting with a global audit of the oldest and most vulnerable plants," said Australian Green party spokesperson Scott Ludlam.

While a phase-out of nuclear is pretty unlikely - the world has 442 reactors, with 65 under construction, currently supplying about 13.8 percent of world electricity - it does appear as if an audit, looking closely at safety systems and emergency preparedness, is getting some play in different parts of the globe.

The European Commission is planning the closest review, demanding that all EU energy companies offer detailed descriptions of how cooling mechanisms work at the 150 EU reactors; what emergency plans are in place in the event of earthquakes, what backup systems can provide energy in the case of long power outtages, and how the EU would handle multiple simultaneous accidents at several power plants. In the U.S., Energy Secretary Stephen Chu says that Americans should have "full confidence" in domestic safety regulations but that Fukushima will lead the U.S. to "assess and heighten" reactor safety.

Countries that have said they definitely aren't changing course in their nuclear strategy include Russia, which will lend 9 billion to Belarus to build a Russian-designed reactor; France, which generates over 75% if its energy from nuclear; Turkey, the Czech Republic, Brazil, and India.

Many say that nuclear energy is the only realistic way to provide cheap electricity to the world and do so in a relatively climate-friendly way. In fact, energy analysts are already saying that Japan's loss of 11 reactors and Germany's shut down of 7 will cause those two countries to need to import fuels that will increase their greenhouse gas emissions levels.

But Fukushima is still an unfolding story, and the change to world opinion may not be
completely clear yet.

Latest Update: Ongoing Crisis at Japan's Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant (March 17, 2011)

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More on Fukushima:
Japan's Nuclear Crisis Coverage at Discovery News
Update on Japan's Nuclear Crisis
6 Important Questions About the Crisis at Japan's Nuclear Power Plants

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