Nuclear in a Post-Fukushima World

01/22/2013 10:30 am EST


Thomas Drolet

President, Drolet and Associates Energy Services, Inc.

Hear what's in store for the future of nuclear energy from energy expert Thomas Drolet.

We’re here at The World MoneyShow in Chicago, and I’m with Tom Drolet, who’s going to talk to us about nuclear power in a post-Fukushima world.

Right Gregg, what a horrendous accident at Fukushima. Nature was the initiating cause, 9.0 earthquake. Almost unheard of in history.

And I think that’s what happens, is people remember Fukushima but forget what caused it; caused the outrageous natural disaster.

Yeah, the cause…that’s right, the cause was the earthquake and the tsunami, that wall of water. Thirty-eight feet high. Twelve, 13 meters high, which overwhelmed the barrier walls surrounding the Fukushima site, inundated all of the emergency power systems, cut off all power.

Pumps stopped working, fuel started melting, hydrogen started to evolve, explosions, accident. So it was the frailty of an early-designed nuclear system to withstand nature’s worst accident. That’s what actually happened, and it’s had a dramatic effect on nuclear power.

Everywhere in the world.


Except for maybe China. But the US, they’ve slowed down, and Europe is shut down, right?

Right now, worldwide, we have something like 6% of all energy created by nuclear reactors—435 power reactors and about 250 research reactors, but let’s look at the power reactors. They’re spread all over the world in major industrialized countries, but the dominant ones are the US, France, Japan, and England. They’re the major ones...also the UK.

After Fukushima happened, the Japanese have a real problem. To go along with their other problems of horrible demographics, highest debt-to-GDP ratio, you name it, now we have a problem whereby the government and the people of Japan, it’s both, are saying we don’t think we want nuclear power in our future.

So the government has come out with a bit of a wishy-washy statement at the moment that says that within 30 years they’re going to phase them all out. Well, let’s go with that and let’s say that happens. I’m not sure it will, by the way.

Right...I don’t know how they could keep a production base, a manufacturing base.

What they have to do is they have to reconstruct or fill a hole of 30% of their electricity generation, and they’re going to do that with LNG imports to use in combined-cycle gas turbines, coal plants, geothermal energy a little bit, they got up in the north of Honshu Island. But that has caused other countries like Germany...Mrs. Merkel has stated that all 17 plants will eventually close down by 2022.

Not to be replaced?

Not to be replaced.


And they’re going to replace it with renewables, more natural gas from shale gas and more natural gas from the Russians and miscellaneous other systems. That’s going to be a tough thing to pull off, and all of us in the energy world today are going to be watching Germany especially closely, because they have mandated that they really want to go the renewable route and there are a lot of people that are concerned about the stability of the electrical system.

Switzerland, though, is looking to abandon their five reactors. On the positive side, as you mentioned earlier, China, they’re talking about building 80—that’s 8-0, I didn’t make a mistake—reactors in the next 50 years. That's more than one a year. The Indians, 22 in the next 30 years, the Middle East, Saudi Arabia, ten in the next two decades.

Wow. So it sounds like nuclear might be slowing in the developed world, but in the emerging world it still has some strength there.

That’s exactly right, Gregg. That’s what all the studies show, that we’re going to be leveling off in the industrialized world, with some states that just committed to new reactors, but with some others they’ll be shutting down. I predict the developing world including the Middle East, China, India, they’ll be the force that takes that 435 reactors today into about the 650 range 30 years from now.

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