Email of the day
Comment of the Day

July 06 2012

Commentary by David Fuller

Email of the day

On nuclear power, Japan's initial restart and competition from fracking:
"Do you have new views regarding nuclear? Japan will review some policies favouring the industry, its first step after Fukushima events. On the other side, boom in shale gas and the speed at which fracking technologies are advancing, could be a real game changer for the nuclear industry. Could you please share some thoughts with us? Thank you very much for your superb service and valuable coaching."

David Fuller's view Thank you for your kind words and an interesting question.

I last wrote about Japan's evolving policy towards nuclear power on 18th June, when posting the article: Noda Ends Japan Nuclear Freeze, Risking Backlash At Polls, to which I added the comment:

My view - This is a smart economic move which can only help Japan's economy, which in addition to all of its long-term problems, has been additionally hampered by energy shortages.

It may also have a subtle influence on attitudes towards nuclear power in other countries. If France's new government is realistic about promoting GDP growth, it will have to shelve plans to phase out the nuclear reactors on which it depends.

I think the subtle influence mentioned above has affected mining share enthusiasts, evidenced in the recent rebound for some of the uranium miners.

Regarding fracking, I continue to view the development of this technology as a boon for GDP growth in future decades because it makes it possible for vast deposits of previously inaccessible shale oil and gas to be developed. Therefore it increases the energy choices available to countries, and those with large deposits of unconventional gas and oil may conclude that new nuclear is less of a priority, at least for now, as your question suggests.

However, a prospering global economy in future decades will require considerably more energy, produced by a variety of means. Inevitably, Fukushima was a major setback for the nuclear industry in terms of public acceptance. There is also a clear dichotomy between our need for abundant and affordable energy, and our dislike of the various ways in which it is produced, particularly if this is occurring in close proximity to our homes or favourite landscapes.

If we look at the history of our energy requirements, people in earlier centuries wanted wood to burn, and then coal, followed by oil and gas, until the pollution created from these fuels was seen to damage our health and jeopardise our planet's ecosystem. More recently we wanted nuclear until the accidents occurred. We wanted windmills and solar until their numbers became intrusive, and so it goes.

Looking ahead, I think we will need all of our known sources of energy. However, it is inevitable that people will increasingly prioritise cleaner processing of that energy, from production to consumption. And we will continue to develop the technologies to achieve this. This will include new nuclear but it is currently a harder sell in terms of public opinion, as we know.

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