Perché la serie “Chernobyl” di HBO sul nucleare sbaglia

[Tradotto dall’originale inglese [1] di Michael Shellenberger [2] a cura di Enrico Brandmayr per il Comitato Nucleare e Ragione]

 

Fin dall’inizio la mini-serie prodotta da HBO sul disastro nucleare del 1986, “Chernobyl”, ha riscosso il plauso dei media per l’accuratezza dei fatti narrati, seppur con qualche licenza artistica.

“La prima cosa da capire riguardo alla serie “Chernobyl”, ha scritto un giornalista su The New York Times, “è che si tratta in gran parte di finzione. Il secondo dato, e più importante, è che questo non importa granché”.

Il giornalista continua evidenziando lo stesso particolare inaccurato di cui già scrissi il mese scorso: “per qualche ragione le vittime da radiazioni sono spesso intrise di sangue”.

Ma HBO coglie correttamente “una verità di base,” scrive ancora, ovvero che Chernobyl fu “più conseguenza di bugie, insabbiamenti e un sistema politico marcescente… piuttosto che un’indicazione sull’inerente bontà o malvagità dell’energia nucleare”.

Su questo punto il creatore della serie “Chernobyl” Craig Mazin ha messo l’accento. “La lezione di Chernobyl non è la pericolosità dell’energia nucleare moderna,” ha scritto in un tweet, “ma che la menzogna, l’arroganza e la soppressione del dissenso sono pericolose”.

Gli addetti ai lavori del nucleare concordano. “I telespettatori potrebbero chiedersi quale sia la rilevanza della narrazione hollywoodiana al di fuori dell’Unione Sovietica” scrive il Nuclear Energy Institute. “In poche parole: non molto”.

Personalmente non ne sono convinto. Dopo aver visto tutti i cinque episodi “Chernobyl” e la reazione del pubblico, penso sia ovvio che la mini-serie abbia terrorizzato milioni di persone in merito alla tecnologia nucleare.

“Due settimane dopo aver finito di guardare la serie, non potevo smettere di pensarci” ha scritto una giornalista di Vanity Fair. “L’immagine che più mi ha colpito è stata la vista dei corpi dei primi soccorritori avvelenati dalle radiazioni, così devastati dall’esposizione che imputridiscono lentamente e, orribilmente, rimanendo disperatamente attaccati alla vita”.

“Ho guardato la serie con mio marito, e dopo per giorni abbiamo ricercato su Google dettagli sul disastro, inviandoci a vicenda particolari morbosi” continua la giornalista di Vanity Fair, “mentre mio padre… ha fatto ricerche su tutte le centrali nucleari in esercizio negli Stati Uniti”.

“Ho guardato il primo episodio di Chernobyl”, scrive in un tweet Sarah Todd, giornalista sportiva del Philadelphia Inquirer. “Quindi ho passato ore a leggere di energia nucleare. Ora sono in preda al panico e ho bisogno che qualcuno mi rassicuri in merito al fatto che si possa vivere tranquillamente sulla costa est degli Stati Uniti, sapendo che questa è la situazione”.

In molti hanno pensato che la mini-serie trattasse, infatti, di energia nucleare in sé.

“Il personaggio più caratterizzato della serie è probabilmente la stessa energia nucleare” scrive un critico per The New Republic. “Se ne parla continuamente, la sua natura è continuamente descritta e dibattuta… diviene un demone”.

Fig. 1    No. Le radiazioni non hanno ucciso il tuo bambino (source HBO).

Questo tipo di reazione non viene solo dai media. “Dopo aver visto Chernobyl ho cercato immediatamente su Google la centrale nucleare più vicina” scrive un telespettatore su Twitter. “Spaventoso”, aggiunge un altro, “ho visto un sacco di sangue e orrore in TV, ma questo li supera tutti. Perché? Perché potrebbe accadere ancora”.

“Attenzione a cosa sta accadendo in Bielorussia” mi ha scritto un artista. “Abbiamo paura della nostra nuova centrale nucleare perché è costruita dai russi. Hanno buttato giù il primo reattore da quattro metri di altezza”, ha detto. “Il secondo è stato danneggiato durante il trasporto, ma lo hanno installato ugualmente. Quindi mentre guardate la serie “Chernobyl”, per favore tenete a mente che potrebbe accadere ancora, e presto”.

Su cosa “Chernobyl” sbaglia

Nelle sue interviste riguardo al lancio di “Chernobyl”, il suo creatore, Mazin, ha più volte rassicurato sull’aderenza ai fatti realmente accaduti. “Mi sono piegato alla versione meno drammatica dei fatti”, ha detto Mazin, “non è bene oltrepassare la linea del sensazionalismo”.

In realtà, “Chernobyl” la linea del sensazionalismo la attraversa fin dal primo episodio, senza mai voltarsi indietro.

In un episodio, tre volontari sacrificano la loro vita per drenare dell’acqua radioattiva, evento mai accaduto.

“I tre personaggi erano in realtà gli operatori della centrale responsabili di quel settore dell’impianto, in turno al momento del disastro”, nota Adam Higginbotham, autore di Midnight in Chernobyl, una storia del disastro ben documentata. “Semplicemente ricevettero telefonicamente dal loro superiore l’ordine di aprire le valvole”.

Né le radiazioni contribuirono in alcun modo alla caduta di un elicottero, come “Chernobyl” sembra voler suggerire. Ci fu, sì, un elicottero caduto, ma i fatti avvennero sei mesi dopo il disastro e la causa fu l’impatto con una gru.

Il sensazionalismo più eclatante in “Chernobyl” sta nel descrivere le radiazioni come contagiose, alla pari di un virus. L’eroina-scienziata interpretata da Emily Watson letteralmente trascina via la moglie incinta di un pompiere che sta morendo di Sindrome Acuta da Radiazioni (SAR).

“Fuori! Fuori di qui!” grida Emily Watson, come se ogni secondo in più passato dalla donna al capezzale del marito contribuisse ad avvelenare il bambino che porta in grembo.

Ma le radiazioni non sono contagiose. Una volta rimossi i vestiti e accuratamente lavati, come avvenne in realtà per i pompieri, e anche nella serie “Chernobyl” la radioattività è contenuta nell’organismo.

Si può ipotizzare che sangue, urine, o sudore di una vittima di SAR possano recare una certa dose dannosa (non un’infezione) ma non vi è alcuna evidenza scientifica che ciò possa essere avvenuto durante il trattamento delle vittime di Chernobyl.

Perché dunque gli ospedali isolano i malati con teli di plastica? Perché il loro sistema immunitario è depresso e rischiano di essere esposti ad agenti patogeni per loro letali. In altre parole, la minaccia di contaminazione è l’opposto di quella dipinta nella serie “Chernobyl”.

Il bimbo muore. Emily Watson dice che “Le radiazioni avrebbero ucciso la madre, ma il feto le ha assorbite.” Mazin e la HBO apparentemente credono che tale scena sia realistica.

HBO cerca poi di ripulire il sensazionalismo con alcune note nei titoli di coda. Nessuna nota però specifica come ipotizzare che un feto muoia per aver assorbito radiazioni dal padre sia sublime fantascienza.

Non vi è alcuna prova attendibile che Chernobyl abbia mai ucciso un feto, né che abbia in alcun modo apprezzabile aumentato l’occorrenza di difetti alla nascita.

“Ad oggi abbiamo potuto osservare tutti i bambini nati al tempo di Chernobyl,” affermava nel 1987 Robert Gale, medico a UCLA, e “nessuno di loro, almeno alla nascita, mostrava deformazioni.”

Senza dubbio, l’unico impatto sulla salute pubblica mai documentato  furono 20,000 casi certi di cancro alla tiroide in minori di 18 anni al tempo del disastro.

Le Nazioni Unite nel 2017 conclusero che solo il 25%, 5,000 casi, poteva essere attribuito al disastro (paragrafi A-C). Negli studi precedenti, l’ONU aveva stimato fino a 16,000 i casi potenzialmente attribuibili alle radiazioni di Chernobyl.
Essendo il tasso di mortalità del cancro alla tiroide pari all’1%, le morti attese per cancro alla tiroide dovuto alle radiazioni di Chernobyl sono tra 50 e 160 su un arco di vita di 80 anni.

Alla fine la HBO sostiene l’occorrenza di “un drammatico picco di casi di cancro tra Ucraina e Bielorussia” ma anche questo non è vero.

I residenti di questi due Paesi “furono esposti a dosi di radiazione di poco superiori al fondo ambientale” secondo l’Organizzazione Mondiale della Sanità. Se mai ci fossero stati casi di cancro aggiuntivi questi rappresenterebbero “circa lo 0.6% delle morti per cancro normalmente attese in queste popolazioni per altre cause”.

Le radiazioni non sono la terribile tossina di cui “Chernobyl” narra. Nell’episodio pilota, le alte dosi di radiazioni fanno sanguinare i lavoratori, e nel secondo episodio, un’infermiera che tocca appena un pompiere vede la propria mano arrossire, come ustionata. Nessuna delle due cose è avvenuta o è possibile.

“Chernobyl” mostra minacciosamente un gruppo di persone radunate su un ponte per guardare l’incendio. Nei titoli di coda la HBO chiosa che “è attestato che nessuno di loro sopravvisse. Il ponte è oggi chiamato Il ponte della Morte”.

Peccato che “il ponte della morte” sia soltanto una formidabile leggenda metropolitana senza alcuna prova a supporto.

“Chernobyl” è altrettanto ingannevole per ciò che omette di raccontare. Vorrebbe far credere che tutti i primi soccorritori colpiti da SAR siano morti. In realtà, l’80% di loro sono sopravvissuti.

È chiaro che anche spettatori istruiti e informati, come i giornalisti, abbiano preso molto della finzione di “Chernobyl” per fatti.

The New Yorker ha rilanciato l’illazione che un feto “assorbì la radiazione” e morì. The New Republic ha descritto le radiazioni come “supernaturalmente persistenti” e contagiose (stile “zombie”, per cui ogni vittima diviene a propria volta un untore”). The Economist, People, ed altri hanno rilanciato la leggenda metropolitana del “ponte della morte”.

Questa cattiva narrazione ha un costo umano. L’idea che le persone colpite da radiazioni siano contagiose fu usata per terrorizzare, stigmatizzare e isolare le vittime di Hiroshima e Nagasaki, di Chernobyl e, ancora, di Fukushima.

Le donne della zona che ricevettero basse dosi di radiazioni dal disastro di Chernobyl abortirono, nel panico, tra 100,000 e 200,000 gravidanze e le vittime da radiazioni di Chernobyl risultarono affette da depressione, ansia e sindrome post traumatica da stress quattro volte di più del resto della popolazione.

Perché “Chernobyl” fraintende così tanto il nucleare

“Chernobyl” dichiaratamente narra le menzogne, l’arroganza e la soppressione del dissenso del regime comunista sovietico. Eppure la vita nell’Unione Sovietica degli anni Ottanta è rappresentata nella serie altrettanto inaccuratamente e melodrammaticamente quanto le radiazioni.

“La narrazione è piena di personaggi che agiscono per paura di essere giustiziati,” annota un giornalista di The New Yorker. “Questo è inaccurato: esecuzioni sommarie, o sulla base degli ordini di un singolo funzionario, sono un retaggio dell’Unione Sovietica degli anni Trenta”.

Il filo conduttore della serie è lo sforzo eroico degli scienziati di scoprire le cause del disastro, ma gli scienziati sovietici “erano perfettamente al corrente dei difetti dei reattori RMBK da anni”, fa notare Higgenbotham, e “specialisti del reattore giunti da Mosca entro 36 ore dall’incidente ne individuarono chiaramente e prontamente le cause”.

Il bisogno di drammatizzare non spiega da solo i fraintendimenti di “Chernobyl” sul nucleare.

Consideriamo come uno degli eroi scienziati del film descrive le radiazioni: come “un proiettile.” Ci chiede di immaginare Chernobyl come “tre milioni di milioni di proiettili nell’aria, nell’acqua e nel cibo… che spareranno per 50 mila anni”.

Le radiazioni però non sono come proiettili. Se lo fossero, saremmo tutti morti, dal momento che in natura siamo continuamente esposti alle radiazioni. E alcune persone che sono esposte a più proiettili, come gli abitanti del Colorado, di fatto vivono più a lungo.

Il proiettile del primo episodio diviene ben presto un’arma. “Il reattore 4 di Chernobyl è ora una bomba nucleare” dice l’eroe scienziato, una che esplode “ora dopo ora” e “non si fermerà… prima di aver ucciso tutto il continente.”

Prima di aver ucciso tutto il continente? La paura insinuata nello spettatore è, ovviamente, quella della guerra nucleare. Così “Chernobyl” usa lo stesso repertorio di tanti altri film di disastri nucleari.

Nel film del 1979 intitolato La sindrome Cinese è famosa la frase di uno scienziato che afferma che una centrale nucleare “potrebbe rendere inabitabile un’area delle dimensioni della Pennsylvania”.

Hollywood ha preso a prestito la narrazione falsa della fusione del nocciolo come un’esplosione nucleare dai capi del movimento anti nucleare quali Ralph Nader, che nel 1974 asseriva che “un incidente nucleare avrebbe potuto spazzare via Cleveland e i sopravvissuti avrebbero invidiato i morti”.

In sostanza, “Chernobyl” fraintende il nucleare alla pari di come l’umanità nel suo insieme lo ha frainteso negli ultimi sessant’anni, ovvero aver mutato la nostra paura delle armi nucleari in paura delle centrali nucleari.

A ben guardare, il disastro di Chernobyl dimostra invece come il nucleare sia la più sicura tra le fonti di produzione di elettricità. Nei peggiori disastri nucleari, solo una limitata quantità di radiazioni viene dispersa nell’ambiente e gli effetti sulla popolazione sono molto limitati.

Per il resto del tempo, le centrali nucleari riducono l’inquinamento atmosferico, diminuendo il ricorso a combustibili fossili e biomasse. Per questo motivo l’energia nucleare ha salvato circa due milioni di vite fino ad oggi.

Se vi è un lato positivo in “Chernobyl” e altra spazzatura pseudoscientifica come il libro di Kate Brown, docente del MIT, Manual for Survival, sta nella comparsa di nuovi coraggiosi scienziati delle radiazioni e giornalisti onesti come Higgenbotham.

“Le centrali nucleari non emettono né anidride carbonica né altri inquinanti in atmosfera e si dimostrano statisticamente più sicure di ogni altra forma di produzione energetica”, scrive, “incluse le turbine eoliche”.

E per quanto riguarda la nostra esagerata paura delle armi nucleari, gli ultimi 74 anni sono stati i più pacifici degli ultimi 700. Con la diffusione degli ordigni nucleari, le morti causate da guerra e combattimento sono calate del 95%.

Potrà la coscienza umana evolvere in modo da comprendere come qualcosa di così pericoloso abbia in realtà reso il mondo più sicuro?

Sono sempre più speranzoso. Uno dei migliori libri che abbia letto recentemente è un’etnografia di scienziati addetti agli ordigni nucleari, Nuclear Rites, scritta da un attivista anti nucleare poi divenuto antropologo, Hugh Gusterson.

Nel finale egli ammette che “la deterrenza nucleare ha avuto un ruolo chiave nell’evitare lo spargimento di sangue genocida di una terza guerra mondiale, e se un mondo pieno di ordigni nucleari è un mondo pericoloso, similmente, e per altre ragioni, è pericoloso un mondo senza la ferrea disciplina imposta dalle armi nucleari”.

Se Hollywood mai decidesse di raccontare la vera storia del nucleare, e spiegare agli spettatori la relazione paradossale tra pericolo e sicurezza, non avrebbe bisogno di ricorrere al sensazionalismo. La verità è già sensazionale di per sé.

Note:

[1] https://www.forbes.com/sites/michaelshellenberger/2019/06/06/why-hbos-chernobyl-gets-nuclear-so-wrong/#581f4903632f

[2] Michael Shellenberger, statunitense, è presidente di Environmental Progress, un’organizzazione di ricerca e politiche energetiche ambientali. “Eroe dell’Ambiente” secondo la rivista Time, ha vinto il Green Book Award. Scrive per The New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Scientific American, Nature Energy, and PLOS Biology. I suoi TED talks hanno oltre 1.5 milioni di visualizzazioni.

Annunci

Nuclear Pride dates 2019

Nuclear Pride Fest 06

PRESS RELEASE

Nuclear power enthusiasts in Europe should book two important dates this year:

  • Sunday, April 28th, 2019 in Brussels, Belgium
  • Sunday, October 20th, 2019 in Paris, France

These events will build on the success of the Nuclear Pride Fest in Munich in October 2018. In Paris, in particular, we will again have a Nuclear Pride Fest, which will offer a colorful program of different actions around nuclear energy.

Our aim, as ever, is to convey the importance of this clean, stable, cost-effective and practically CO2-free form of power generation. We are proud to support and promote it – for the benefit of people and the environment.

Detailed planning of both events will take place in the coming weeks and months.

 

For more information about the Nuclear Pride Coalition: here.
The report of the 2018 edition of the Nuclear Pride Fest (in Italian): here

 

Climate Change: losing sight of the real target.

[this article was originally published on medium.com. We thank the author Bob. S. Effendi]


In September 2015, German Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks made a statement which shock the world, Germany is likely to fail its 2020 emission reduction target which fall short by seven percent [i].

How could this be, to a Climate Change champion with its 520 Billion Euro Energiewende Program which aim to make German energy mix 80% by clean energy, that is mostly wind and solar by 2050.

As its stand by 2015 Germany’s renewable already up to 30% of the total energy mix, probably the largest renewable energy mix in the world. But the irony is with all that renewable how could Germany predicted to miss the emission reduction target? Isn’t the premise to increase renewable shares so that to reduce CO2 emission.

It turns out that German electricity is consider among the dirtiest in Europe not only that but to make thing much worse in the past 5 years after the implementation of Energiewende, German electricity tariff has double making it the most expensive in Europe and is not affordable to some German.

According to Eva Bulling-Schröter, energy spokeswoman for Die Linke, Germany left party, between 2011 and 2015, about 300,000 German homes get their power cut off because they can no longer afford to pay their bills [ii].

McKinsey just release a 20 pages report on German Energiewende which was featured in Die Weld, a German National Newspaper, that Energiewende does not achieve its goal in reducing emission and it has put burden on the economy but despite these obvious facts German Government refuses to acknowledge that their energy policy has become a dismal failure [iii]. Basically, what McKinsey is saying that Energiewende is a 500 Billion Euro disaster.

The fact of the matter, Germany does not make it into the 10 cleanest electricity in Europe according to real-time map which measure CO2 intensity (www.electricitymap.org) created as an open source project by Tomorrow, a Climate Change concern organization. Germany CO2 intensity is runs around 350–450 gram CO2/kwh whereas Norway at no 1 (8 gram), Sweden at no 3 (37 gram), Switzerland at no 4 (63 gram) and France at no 5 (66 gram) [iv].

 

According to Massachusetts institute of Technology study even if the whole signatories of Paris Accord do everything what they pledge to do, it will only result in a slight reduction in global temperatures of just 0.2°C by 2100, global temperature will still raise to 3.1–5.0 degree to pre-industrial level. [v]

According to the study to meet the target, deeper cut on fossil need to happen. Which is obvious that a lot of these countries are not willing to give-up fossil as a dependable cheap economic driver and has become a strong industry with far reaching political influence but instead focusing on renewable. This should make you rethink maybe the world has lost sight what the real target is? Is the Paris Accord is really about climate change or something else?

It’s a simple question, if the objective of climate change is carbon reduction, then what should be the measuring stick then, is it: a) How much renewable energy you put or b) How much CO2 is in your electricity.

It’s a no brainer, off course is how much CO2 in your electricity (CO2/kwh) or how much CO2 per energy per capita (CO2/capita). Germany has shown that the more renewable you put does not relate to reduction of CO2 emission in fact it has the opposite effect which is as also shown in California.

Even in California where strict environmental and climate legislation has been enforced for many years and has the highest renewable mix in the US, but with all those effort it still is fail to reduce its emission and increases the electricity tariff which makes California electricity become the most expensive in the US [vi].

Ron Kirk, US Trade Representative, Clean and Safe Energy Coalition co-Chairman and former Mayor of Dallas put it bluntly “The more you put renewable the higher your emission and so is your electric bill as proven by Germany and California” [vii].

What Germany and California has proven is that you cannot make intermittent renewable, such as wind and solar as primary energy because of several reasons: 1) its low energy density thus requiring huge amount land and 2) can only deliver at best less than 25% of capacity thus at the end require a fossil backup 3) its intermittent nature, creates a problem to grid making the gird unreliable thus maintaining a reliable electricity service become costly for utility.

With that in mind, we should not lose sight of what is the real target, obviously not renewable but carbon reduction and the measuring stick should be CO2 intensity or CO2 per capita not renewable and to achieve that there is only one way to do it that is replacing all fossil especially coal as primary energy with another zero-emission energy source which can act as base load meaning operating 24/7.

It’s a simple formula, your primary energy mix should be more than 65% zero carbon energy, It’s either Hydro or Nuclear or combination. With Norway its 97% Hydro, or with France its 79% Nuclear or combination of the two like Sweden with Hydro 36% and Nuclear 35%.

It is a simple fact that without combination of these two form of energy there is no way you could achieve a decarbonization economy, it is not a theory but it is an indisputable fact. In fact, Nuclear produces more than 60% of zero carbon electricity in the world.

So it is ridiculous for countries which committed to climate change but follow in the foot step of Germany by closing down its nuclear power plant, such as Switzerland [viii]. The fact is that Nuclear was never on table or discuss in any UNFCC document. Even in the latest UN Deputy Secretary General speech on The Goal of Climate Change, there is a lot of mention of clean energy, a lot mention of wind and solar but no nuclear. Is Nuclear not a clean energy? [ix]

So in the end, if the discussion on climate change does not include Nuclear on the table then the Billion Dollar Question is: are they seriously want to fight climate change or just being anti-nuclear ?.

Jakarta, 6 June 2017

Bob S. Effendi

End Notes

[i] Germany unlikely to meet carbon reduction targets for 2020 | http://www.dw.com/en/germany-unlikely-to-meet-carbon-reduction-targets-for-2020/a-17802417

[ii] Over 300,000 poverty-hit German homes have power cut off each year | https://www.thelocal.de/20170302/over-300000-poverty-hit-german-homes-have-power-cut-off-each-year

[iii] ‘Die Welt’ Article Warns: German “Energiewende Risks Becoming a Disaster” …As Costs Explode! | http://notrickszone.com/2017/03/08/die-welt-article-warns-german-energiewende-risks-becoming-a-disaster-as-costs-explode/#sthash.3Ewp4tPQ.dpuf

[iv] List of countries according to the lowest emission | https://www.electricitymap.org/?wind=false&solar=false&page=highscore

[v] MIT News, Report: Expected Paris commitments insufficient to stabilize climate by century’s end | http://news.mit.edu/2015/paris-commitments-insufficient-to-stabilize-climate-by-2100-1022

[vi] Climate Change, and California’s Failed Solution | http://www.realclearmarkets.com/articles/2016/05/05/climate_change_and_californias_failed_solution_102154.html

[vii] Bloomberg TV interview May 25, 2016 : Ron Kirk | https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vqELgPdaX-g&feature=share

[viii] Switzerland votes to ban nuclear plants, shift to renewable energy in referendum | http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-05-22/swiss-voters-embrace-shift-to-renewable-energy/8545844

[ix] Energy is at the Hearts of Global Goals and Paris Agreement | http://newsroom.unfccc.int/unfccc-newsroom/energy-is-at-the-heart-of-global-goals-and-paris-agreement/

Consultazione pubblica sul Programma EURATOM

[contributo del Comitato Nucleare e Ragione]

screenshot_2017-01-17-08-43-11-1

Abbiamo partecipato alla public stakeholder consultation on the Euratom Research and Training Programme.

Potrete consultare per intero il nostro contributo qui: https://ec.europa.eu/research/consultations/euratom_rt_programme/consultation_en.htm appena verrà reso disponibile.
Nel frattempo, riportiamo qui di seguito la parte saliente:

Nuclear energy is a young technology, still in its first innovation cycle. It presents, thanks to expected scientific and technical advances in the 21st century, a great potential for future technological breakthroughs, both with regards to its applications (electricity, heat, desalinization), and in new concepts of reactors and fuel systems.

The EU will need nuclear energy to meet its climate objectives, insure its energy independence and maintain competitive electricity prices.

Low-carbon nuclear energy is already providing its essential contribution as a reliable base-load source of electricity. With an adequate and consistent political backing, nuclear energy could substitute all fossil fuels in electricity generation, as being used as a support of the advantages expected from energy efficiency, and renewable development.

Future nuclear reactors will be more competitive and flexible: they will operate in electrical grids together with a significant share of intermittent renewables. They will show advances in intrinsic safety, together with materials and waste management.

To date, half of the EU countries rely on nuclear energy for their energy future, and all of them have nuclear research assets that can make the EU a worldwide leader in nuclear infrastructures of the future, and make sure it achieves its climate objectives. They will need the support of the European institutions to define a common ambition and coordinate their efforts.

The European Commission must fully implement Article 40 of EURATOM Treaty. It must set production and investment targets for nuclear energy in line with the objectives of the Union’s energy policy.

New governance practices must be negotiated with countries that do not wish to use nuclear energy in their future energy mix (e.g. Germany and Austria) so they do not block initiatives around the development of nuclear energy. Countries wishing to use nuclear power should be able to use the provisions of the EURATOM Treaty for the implementation of common objectives.

The EU must:

  • Multiply by at least 3 the budgets allocated to EURATOM to relaunch and revamp nuclear research, development and construction of new fission nuclear reactor concepts. This should include funding in required technology enablers (such as materials) and the experimental means necessary for their development.
  • Strongly promote Gen. IV in order to achieve significant construction milestones within next five years, and a productive implementation of those advanced nuclear systems in overall European electricity grid within a decade.
  • Invest in the construction of one or more European prototypes or demonstrators.
  • Promote and support initiatives to increase nuclear safety culture among EU populations.
  • Promote research on risks and benefits of ionizing radiation, and communication to general public of the outcome, in particular about real risk and possible benefits related to exposure to low and very low levels.
  • Promote review of guidelines for industry, environmental protection, healthcare, radioprotection, etc. in conformity of the results of the more updated research concerning ionizing radiation effects.

Making America great again

Bellefonte NPP, started in 1974, abandoned in 1988, will it be completed?
Bellefonte NPP, started in 1974, abandoned in 1988, will it be completed?

In our honest opinion there is a man who is already doing it! His name is Franklin L. Haney and he is 75 years old.

This Chattanooga, Tennessee-based mogul picked up a nuclear power station in Hollywood, Alabama at an auction last week. Yes, you read well, a nuclear power station, for just 111 million dollars! That’s the famous never completed Bellefonte.

As reported by CGR (Global Construction Review) online magazine, Haney said “the rejuvenated plant would ‘transform communities’ hit by coal-plant closures in Alabama and Tennessee.” And “completing the plant will employ up to 4.000 people; while operating it would create 2.000 ‘permanent, high paying jobs’.”

But he will need to bring all his deal-making talents to bear on this new asset: construction of the 2,6 GW power station was halted in far 1988 and it is likely to request several billion dollars to get it completed, because unit 1 is deemed approximately 55% complete, and unit 2 approximately 35% complete, having for years been ransacked for spare parts.

In addition, to hold him to his promises regarding the site, the seller, state utility Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), stipulated that the buyer must invest at least 25 million dollars on the property within 5 years of closing the deal.

Well, imagine our shock, if this won’t happen!

We mean, we aren’t sufficiently oriented to wishful thinking about nuclear power to forget that business is business. And Mr Haney could always change his mind, provided he hasn’t already now (in a drawer somewhere) a different idea from that he has shown so far.

But let’s still dream for a while, with Haney’s words. “Today marks the first step of an exciting new journey for the people of Alabama and Tennessee,” he said in a statement. “The Bellefonte Nuclear Station will help transform communities across the region. This project will bring new life to the region by creating thousands of jobs while providing assured access to reliable, affordable, zero-emission energy.”

How not to agree?

Surprisingly this words match with some (not all) statements heard during the last presidential election campaign, about which we are standing with high hopes!

Hey, don’t take this as a galvanized reaction to the the news of November 9th, 2016. U.S. President-elected Donald J. Trump has still to demonstrate to be really ready and willing for a new cursus of energy policies, and only History will tell us if this shall be also in favor of a new nuclear renaissance for America.

And by the way, it’s hard to miss the fact that Mr Haney, a long time Democratic donor, funded the campaign for President Obama’s reelection 4 years ago. Not to say he has also been several times under reflectors due to the fact he has built his business around developing government-supported real estate projects – being even indicated as a “Government Landlord”.

And so on and on, you can find by yourselves a lot of interesting further information or silly yak-yak on the web. This is not the point.

We were simply wondering if Haney’s iniziative in coincidence of Trump’s election could be a symptom of a new sight on America’s energy future. In other words, if such a kind of investment is a claim of “innovative financing”; if it will possibly suggest some good ideas to the President-elected; and ultimately if it can really change the approach to nuclear power in the U.S. and, as a reflection, all over the World – maybe a tangible way to make America great again.

Well, our guess and hope is: yes, yes and yes!

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11/25/2016 Update: Maria Korsnick, CEO of the Nuclear Energy Institute, has recently discussed about the future of the American nuclear industry under Trump administration. You can watch the video of the interview at this link.

 

Balance sheet of electricity generation capacity – 10 years of nuclear power at a glance

Since 40 years, IAEA develops and maintains a comprehensive database focused on nuclear power plants worldwide, namely PRIS (Power Reactor Information System). We have collected and analysed data starting from 2005 up to date. You can find here below shown in 5 graphs some information on new power reactors connected to the grid, those under construction, those being decommissioned on schedule, or those retired in advance.
We have not taken into account the Japanese reactors not in permanent shutdown. Since Fukushima accident and the following ban on NPP operations, 4 Japanese NPP have restarted. All of these between last summer and a few days ago. We have considered the remaining ones – not yet restarted neither yet in permanent shutdown – in a sort of Limbo: in fact, they are operable, but still waiting for the authorities and politicians’ starting signal.

 

 

Fig. 1Cumulative progress of power capacity for new nuclear reactors connected to the grid, new construction starts, cancelled constructions and permanent shutdowns. Data for 2016 only refer to the month of January. Source: IAEA PRIS; Data Processing: CNeR.
Fig. 1 Cumulative progress of power capacity for new nuclear reactors connected to the grid, new construction starts, cancelled constructions and permanent shutdowns. Data for 2016 only refer to the month of January. Source: IAEA PRIS; Data Processing: CNeR.

As can be seen in Figure 1, the new installed nuclear power from January 2005 to January 2016 amounts to 37,9 GWe, a value which exceeds the reduced capacity from permanent shutdowns by 8,1 GWe.
Let’s consider the state-by-state contribution to the new installed reactors (Figure 2). China remarkably drives overall NPP replacement with roughly 18 GWe of new capacity connected to the grid, and with an average construction duration just above 5 years. In the same time frame, South Korea follows it by return, with an average schedule duration just below 6 years.

Fig.2 New capacity connected to the grid in the period 2005-2016
Fig.2 New capacity connected to the grid in the period 2005-2016

By analyzing the year-by-year progress (Figure 3), two notable aspects deserve our attention. First of all, we observe a significant drop of installed nuclear capacity in 2011, mainly as a direct or indirect consequence of the Japanese 11th March earthquake and tsunami: among the thirteen permanent shutdowns in that year, four are from the site of Fukushima Daiichi, while eight are from German power plants which have been forced to early retire due to the political decision to accelerate the country’s nuclear phase-out.
The second interesting aspect is the outstanding amount of new capacity connected to the grid in 2015, which doubled the results of the previous year.

Fig. 3Annual progress of power capacity for new nuclear reactors connected to the grid, restarts after long-term shutdown, long-term and permanent shutdowns. Data for 2016 only refer to the month of January. Source: IAEA PRIS; Data Processing: CNeR.
Fig. 3 Annual progress of power capacity for new nuclear reactors connected to the grid, restarts after long-term shutdown, long-term and permanent shutdowns. Data for 2016 only refer to the month of January. Source: IAEA PRIS; Data Processing: CNeR.

What could we expect for the near future? Is the 2015’s achievement just a flash in the pan, or can we say that it is the restart of the nuclear renaissance?
To answer the question we ought to look at the amount construction starts in the last ten years. As can be seen in Figure 4, in four years from 2007 to 2010 the construction of nuclear power plants has experienced tremendous growth. After that, in some ways all construction plans have suffered from the impact of the Fukushima accident. However, there is a bunch of eleven Chinese reactors still under construction, starting from 2009-2010. So, taking into account the average duration of NPP construction in China – very short time, as per performances consolidated over the past ten years – as well as the number of reactors which are about to be completed in India, Japan, Pakistan, Russia, South Korea, UAE and USA, for the next two years we expect results equal to those for the last, or even more.
Figure 5 shows the state-by-state summary of the total capacity for all nuclear reactors under construction, as of January 2016.

Fig. 4Annual progress for new nuclear reactor construction starts or restarts, compared to suspended or cancelled constructions. Data for 2016 only refer to the month of January. Source: IAEA PRIS; Data Processing: CNeR.
Fig. 4 Annual progress for new nuclear reactor construction starts or restarts, compared to suspended or cancelled constructions. Data for 2016 only refer to the month of January. Source: IAEA PRIS; Data Processing: CNeR.

In short, the race to nuclear power plants is currently destined to take place primarily on the racetracks of the Far East (from 2016 to 2020, six to eight nuclear reactors will probably be approved each year in China). And this despite the current slowdown in economic growth – also felt over there. The situation is made even more interesting by the fact that the countries chasing China are almost exclusively the emerging ones – some of these are “in the early days of development”.

Nothing new on the western front? Actually something is moving. Even if we are forced to admit that all factors against are dominant, at the moment. And perhaps it is time to fully review the role of nuclear power production in modernized countries, paving definitely the way for advanced nuclear systems – not necessarily always large. But that’s another story, about which we will not dwell here. That’s all folks, for now.

Fig.5 Total capacity for the 66 reactors under construction as of January 2016. United Arab Emirates and Belarus are going to have their first nuclear power plant commercially operative in 2017 and 2019, respectively.
Fig.5 Total capacity for the 66 reactors under construction as of January 2016. United Arab Emirates and Belarus are going to have their first nuclear power plant commercially operative in 2017 and 2019, respectively.

 

Megatons to megawatts

[how to produce electricity by getting rid of 20k nuclear warheads]

This article was originally published in Italian on the 12th of March, 2014.

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Last weeks world news – a source of concern for the condition of Ukraine’s population – have brought back to the top the spectre of the nuclear weaponry race.

In addition to real fatalities and strong divisions – the price for fierce clashes and the result of national policies we do not want to describe here, nor we are able to judge in every aspect – we see an increased fear that the deterioration of the situation could bring to contrasts we all expected would have been just a relic of the past, after the end of the Cold War.

In order to exorcise such frightening thought we want to remember how much we can get from the use of energy sources as vehicles of Peace. And among all nuclear energy.

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In December 2013 the program popularly known as “Megatons to Megawatts” was completed. On the basis of this program the United States agreed with Russian Federation to purchase some Low-Enriched Uranium (i.e. with a 235U concentration below 20%) coming from the reprocessing of the Highly-Enriched Uranium (i.e. with a 235U concentration above 80%) contained in the former USSR nuclear warheads. The official name of the program was “Agreement between the Government of the Russian Federation and the Government of the United States of America Concerning the Disposition of Highly-Enriched Uranium Extracted from Nuclear Weapons.”, dated February 18th, 1993.

It was estimated that in the last twenty years the United States have produced about 10% of its electricity by dismantling 20k nuclear warheads сделано в России (made in Russia); in other words, they have recycled 500 tonnes of Russian bomb-grade HEU into 14k tonnes of LEU. This is energetically equivalent to: 3.4 billions tonnes of coal, 12.2 billions of oil barrels, 2.6E15 (2.6 millions of billions of) cubic meters of natural gas [1].

Interesting to know how all was born thanks to the initiative of a Physicist at MIT, Thomas L. Neff [2], who in October 1991 took pen and paper and wrote to New York Times, voicing his apprehension. He had in mind a very simple idea on how to turn an uncomfortable and potentially dangerous legacy in a useful and highly symbolic initiative. Two months later Neff was invited in Moscow to discuss the details of his proposal with Russian scientists and Government’s officials. On August 28th, 1992 negotiation started; Clinton and Yeltsin signed the final agreement in 1993.

The details of the proposal were put on paper for the first time on October 24th, 1991 in a Op-Ed in the New York Times. The project was so successful that it was honored on the same newspaper on January 24th .

Notes
[1] http://www.usec.com/russian-contracts/megatons-megawatts

[2]Thomas L. Neff assisted US Governments over the years in fixing some problems related to the Highly-Enriched Uranium management and nuclear security. For such activity he was awarded in 1997 with Leo Szilard Award in Physics. [http://www.world-nuclear.org/sym/2006/neffbio.htm]