Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Emerging dilemma for the nuclear industry

Someone who read the piece I wrote last week about Russia's floating nuclear reactors has drawn my attention to the fact that the Nuclear Safety Commission of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will be discussing at its 28th Session this week on 30 September and 1st October issues related to floating nuclear reactors (which they call barge-mounted nuclear power plant -- that sounds even more like a Homer Simpson invention).

See Item 5.06 of the Provisional Agenda. And the note prepared by the IAEA Secretariat to introduce the discussion.

Besides all the technical concerns outlined in the IAEA note, I think the nuclear establishment has a big credibility problem with the emergence of these floating nuclear reactors: in the last couple of decades they've presented themselves as a part of the solution to climate change with claims that the redeployment of nuclear power was necessary to meet greenhouse gases reduction pledges and obligations. But now floating (barge-mounted) nuclear reactors are about to be deployed to facilitate the exploration and exploitation of fossil fuels in the Arctic and other remote regions. Ah!

I suppose the IAEA is faced by a serious dilemma. The objective of the agency as defined in Article II of its Statute is to "seek to accelerate and enlarge the contribution of atomic energy to peace, health and prosperity throughout the world." So, some might say that they have to seek to accelerate and enlarge the use of floating nuclear reactors. But I hope many others will object and say that this is not likely to bring "peace, health and prosperity throughout the world." Quite the opposite.

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