Post-Fukushima: Signs Of A New Surge In Nuclear Plant Construction

Fukushima raised serious questions about nuclear safety and prompted a global building freeze on new atomic power plants. But as 2012 begins, it is becoming clear that the freeze is beginning to thaw. And the BRICS nations will lead the way.

A nuclear power plant being built in Liangshan Yizu, China (CookieEvans5)
A nuclear power plant being built in Liangshan Yizu, China (CookieEvans5)

PARIS -- Last year's tsunami in Japan and the nuclear accident that followed at the Fukushima reactor threw up an unprecedented roadblock for the world's atomic power industry.

Prior to the disaster, nuclear power had been enjoying a global "renaissance" thanks in large part to higher commodity prices and growing energy demand in developing economies. The Fukushima catastrophe – the world's worst since the Chernobyl disaster of 1986 – stopped that resurgence dead in its tracks.

Over the months that followed the March 11, 2011 quake and tsunami, citizens and politicians in numerous countries – particularly in Europe – aired concerns about nuclear safety and managed to place the atomic energy issue back on the table. Germany's decision to get out of the nuclear energy business was the most notable example. And in Europe, at least, that decision seemed to forecast a real decline for the industry.

Seven months later, however, nuclear power suddenly looks as if it may be on the comeback trail.

Prior to the Fukushima accident, the United States had been looking to revive its nuclear power program. In February 2010, U.S. President Barack Obama granted public subsidies to build third-generation plants on American soil. These reactors were to be the first since the 1980s in America, which halted nuclear plant construction after the accident at Three Mile Island in 1979.

Even if the Japanese disaster didn't mobilize anti-nuclear activists in the United States the way it did in Europe, U.S. authorities still decided to put new nuclear power plant projects on hold. That construction freeze, however, is now beginning to thaw. On Dec. 22, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) announced its approval of the latest version of Westinghouse Electric's AP1000 reactor design. Analysts hailed the move as a symbolic step toward new atomic power plant construction in the United States.

The United States isn't the only large western power ready to delve back into nuclear energy. The British government, concerned about diminishing North Sea oil reserves and keen to limit its dependence of foreign fossil fuels, has decided to build a dozen nuclear plants between now and 2020. The decision had almost universal support in the British parliament, where it was supported by both the Conservative and Labour parties.

More nukes for the BRICS

The principal emerging powers – notably China, India, Brazil and South Africa – likewise put their respective nuclear programs on hold during the months that followed Fukushima. That's not to say, however, that they ever really considered turning their backs on nuclear energy.

With growth rates of more than 5%, these emerging economies are going to need more and more energy, especially given their role as the globalized world's new centers of manufacturing. Nuclear energy offers these countries obvious benefits, particularly in terms of cost.

In China, there are no fewer than 25 nuclear reactors currently under construction. Authorities are considering even more nuclear projects that together could make China the world's biggest nuclear energy producer by 2030.

India has proposed upping the percentage of electricity it generates from nuclear plants from the current 3% to 25% by 2050. And between now and 2030 Brazil plans to build between four and eight new atomic power plants.

According to the International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA), between 90 and 350 new reactors will be built worldwide over the next 20 years. Most of those will be in emerging countries.

Read the original article in French

Photo - CookieEvans5

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Migrant Lives

The Other Scandal At The Poland-Belarus Border: Where's The UN?

The United Nations, UNICEF, Red Cross and other international humanitarian organizations seems to be trying to reach the Polish-Belarusian border, where Belarus leader Alexander Lukashenko is creating a refugee crisis on purpose.

Migrants in Michalowo, Belarus, next to the border with Poland.

Wojciech Czuchnowski

WARSAW — There is no doubt that the refugees crossing the Belarusian border with Poland — and by extension reaching the European Union — were shepherded through by the regime of Alexander Lukashenko. There is more than enough evidence that this is an organized action of the dictator using a network of intermediaries stretching from Africa and the Middle East. But that is not all.

The Belarusian regime has made no secret that its services are guiding refugees to the Polish border, literally pushing them onto (and often, through) the wires.

It can be seen in films made available to the media by... Belarusian border guards and Lukashenko's official information agencies.

Tactics of a strongman

Refugees are not led to the border by "pretend soldiers" in uniforms from a military collectibles store. These are regular formations commanded by state authorities. Their actions violate all rules of peaceful coexistence and humanitarianism to which Belarus has committed itself as a state.

Belarus is dismissed by the "rest of the world" as a hopeless case of a bizarre (although, in the last year, increasingly brutal) dictatorship. But it still formally belongs to a whole range of organizations whose principles it violates every day on the border with Poland.

Indeed, Belarus is a part of the United Nations (it is even listed as a founding state in its declaration), it belongs to the UNICEF, to the International Committee of the Red Cross, and even to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Photo of Polish soldiers setting up a barbed wire fence in the Border Zone near Krynki, Belarus

Polish soldiers set up a barbed wire fence in the Border Zone near Krynki, Belarus

Maciej Luczniewski/ZUMA

Lukashenko would never challenge the Red Cross

Each of these entities has specialized bureaus whose task is to intervene wherever conventions and human rights are violated. Each of these organizations should have sent their observers and representatives to the conflict area long ago — and without asking Belarus for permission. They should be operating on both sides of the border, as their presence would certainly make it more difficult to break the law.

An incomprehensible absence

Neither the leader of Poland's ruling party Jaroslaw Kaczyński nor even Lukashenko would dare to keep the UN, UNICEF, OSCE or the Red Cross out of their countries.

In recent weeks, the services of one UN state (Belarus) have been regularly violating the border of another UN state (Poland). In the nearby forests, children are being pushed around and people are dying. Despite all of this, none of the international organizations seems to be trying to reach the border nor taking any kind of action required by their responsibilities.

Their absence in such a critical time and place is completely incomprehensible, and their lack of action raises questions about the use of international treaties and organizations created to protect them.

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