New in nuclear
Safety, uranium and Greenland were just three of the topics served up at the World Nuclear Association Symposium, in London. Eoin Redahan reports.
It would be fair to say that some of the delegates were irked about the Fukushima fallout. The round table of speakers felt that a belt-and-braces approach has kept many Japanese people from returning to their homes, three-and-a-half years after the disaster. The residual radiation in the area, they said, is negligible – certainly no worse than some brief exposure to the sun on a given day. ‘I live in Tooting,’ Malcolm Grimston, of Imperial College London, said. ‘My life expectancy is nine
months less than my parents’ (who live in a rural area) because of where I live. But the UK Government hasn’t evacuated me.’
Their point was that by erring on the side of caution, the displaced are being hurt. There is a drain on physical and mental wellbeing that comes from being denied access to your home for several years. Willie Harris, of Exelon Nuclear, in Chicago, asked why you would protect someone from something you consider to be safe, before questioning once again the very term radiation protection.
Another area that has felt the glare of Fukushima is uranium supply. While exploration has increased in the past decade and identified resources have risen, prices have declined.
Germany’s abrupt withdrawal from the nuclear mix has also resulted in uranium inventories building, though chinks of light appear in future forecasts. Adrienne Hanly, of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said, ‘72 reactors are under construction [around the world] and several more are planned. Growth in China and India is expected to be significant. Because of this, we expect demand to increase in the coming years.’
The colour of money – green
Footprints are made all over this Earth, but some are made more lightly than others. For example, the Danes began looking for uranium on a plateau in the south of Greenland back in 1957. In 1983, they dispensed with the project after a pre-feasibility report, having decided not to go ahead with nuclear power.
But perhaps they should have looked more intently at the Kvanefjeld reserve, for it turned out that there is one billion tonnes of resource in a uranium mine that also holds fluorspar, zinc and neodymium. It’s also quite handily situated in the southern tip of Greenland, which is useful for shipping and not too cold.