As the world’s eyes focus on Japan for developments in the Fukishima story, many media outlets in the west are beginning to discuss nuclear power in slightly more questioning terms than previously.
Nuclear was, at the time of its beginning as a UK fuel source, seen as the future in entirety: a fuel source that would soon be ‘too cheap to meter’. Then of course various nuclear accidents happened: Windscale (which led to the Sellafield re-branding), Three Mile Island, Chernobyl.
At the time of writing, the Fukushima Daiichi incidents have actually had an effect on the stock market. What this means for the nuclear industry is too early to say, but my guess would be that in future any new generation of power stations would have to be more or less meltproof – for two reasons: the first reason is that the ecology simply cannot be subjected to another catastrophe of this kind. The second is that investors will likely see less value in nuclear after Fukushima.
But energy industries are changing massively – and with the Chinese economy growing exponentially, energy will still have to come from somewhere. There’s been talk of making electricity using thorium (abundant, cheaper, safer) so who know where we will be even in ten years’ time.
For the moment though, nuclear can’t just be wound down, decommissioned, forgotten about. Strong opinions are held, and there will be heated debate and loud controversy. Renewables might previously have been seen as some kind of an ‘alternative lifestyle’ (beard and sandals) option. Not no more…