Nuclear or not

15 May 2005
While fretting over Iran's nuclear stance is in the news, the energy future of three emerging large industrial economies - China, India and Brazil - is a major concern for many others. Some conundrums are explored in a roundtable between campaigners from those three countries next week on openDemocracy.

Ahead of that, it doesn't hurt to read Let a thousand reactors bloom from the Sept 2004 edition of Wired magazine, an extract of which has thoughtfully been posted by "Sharlie" (is that a real name?) in the forum.

The pebble bed reactors on which the Chinese authorities are reported to be banking are similar in design to a South African "fourth generation" prototype, about which insider "Buffy" has expressed reservations here.

Meanwhile, back in the land of Arthur Dent, the argument over whether nuclear has a future or not continues (see Nuclear:manyana? for some background - sorry for the spelling; I cannot access a tilde, the squiggle that makes "n" into "nya", on openDemocracy's blogging software).

Today's Financial Times reports that Alan Johnson, the new trade and industry secretary, has raised the prospect of an early a commitment to build a new generation of nuclear power stations as he set a shorter than expected deadline for the government to complete a review of energy policy.

On 13 May, says the FT, a committee set up to decide how to dispose of Britain's radioactive waste said it had asked the government to delay a decision on whether to build any new nuclear plants until it reported in July 2006.

Others, including some senior scientists concerned about climate change, suggest that coal and gas can continue to be major power sources because carbon capture technologies are improving. In a letter published the Financial Times back on 3 March but front paged by that newspaper today alongside its story on the UK government's nuclear review, Jon Gibbins and others (including Carol Turley) argue that commercial coal and gas power plants that operate at high efficiency and capture 80-90 per cent of the CO2 produced and store it deep underground could be deployed extensively in the next decade.

For more on the nuclear issue on openDemocracy, read these forum posters and Paul Rogers.

Caspar Henderson

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