Feature story – March 25, 2011 : Reverberations from the Fukushima crisis are being felt around the world, as plans to build new nuclear power plants are being challenged. The safety of existing plants is being questioned.
The cost of nuclear power is projected to rise, and the bottom has fallen out of the uranium market. Here’s a quick glimpse of what’s happening as the continuing uncertainty over the fate of the Fukushima reactors clouds the future of nuclear power.
Germany: 100,000 people marched in Berlin, and hundreds of thousands in other cities on March 26, to say no to nuclear power. Angela Merkel says that the Fukushima crisis has “changed everything in Germany.” The country’s seven oldest nuclear power plants have been shut down, and the government has deferred a decision to keep all 17 aging plants in operation. Demonstrations are planned in several German cities on the 26th of March.
Italy: Earthquake-prone Italy has shelved nuclear plans with a one year moratorium. A referendum on plans to restart nuclear power generation to cover 25 percent of energy supply was announced in January, when Berlusconi’s government sought to overturn a 1980 ban on nuclear power. The referendum will still go ahead in mid-June, though government officials are openly expecting failure. Polls show a majority of Italians polled oppose nuclear power. Demonstrations are planned for this Saturday with expectations of a large turnout. Take action
China: The government has suspended new plant approvals pending safety review. Greenpeace supporters and members of the public held a candle-light vigil on March 20 in Hong Kong, urgently calling upon the government to drop plans to increase nuclear power capacity in the city by 50% by 2020. Greenpeace believes that through improving energy efficiency and regional development of renewable energy, Hong Kong can avoid additional nuclear power and ensure a clean, sustainable and safe future. Take action
India: A safety review of all nuclear power plants in India has been ordered by the Prime Minister. Greenpeace has joined residents of Jaitupur in calling for cancellation of plans to build the world’s largest nuclear power plant in the earthquake-prone area. Avaaz has launched an international appeal calling upon the Prime Minister to abandon the plant. Deutsche Bank and Commerz Bank have pulled out of financing the Jaitapur project. And in in Gorakhpur village in Haryana, about a thousand farmers have declined to sell their land to make way for a nuclear power plant. Take action
Israel: Greenpeace activists spoke out against nuclear power across all media in Israel. In an SMS survey accompanying an opinion column that appeared in the Yediot paper – 87% voted against nuclear. Prime Minister Netanyahu said in an interview on CNN that he is now reconsidering the nuclear energy option: “I think we’ll skip the nuclear.”
Brazil: The government has agreed to a safety and licensing review for nuclear power plants in Brazil. Greenpeace is calling for an end to plans to build 7 new plants, and has asked the courts to block a license for the Angra III plant. Take action
UK: The government has commissioned a report on what can be learned from the Fukushima Japanese crisis, to be ready in May. Greenpeace demands that the approval process for new nuclear plants should be suspended until after the report is published. But the French-owned power company EDF, which is the largest nuclear operator in the UK, says new new power stations being constructed at Hinkley Point in Somerset and Sizewell in Suffolk will go ahead “on schedule.” In addition, Rory Walker, a 24-year-old community worker from Lancaster and member of the Heysham Anti-Nuclear Alliance, has won legal aid to launch an unprecedented case against the energy and climate secretary, Chris Hulne, alleging that the government’s expansion of its nuclear programme was undertaken without properly factoring in evidence that nuclear power stations cause an increase in cancer cases among children living nearby.
Argentina: Greenpeace called for the closure of Argentina’s two active nuclear power plants, and took action to demand that a third scheduled to open this year be abandoned. Take action
Spain: Greenpeace demands a plan for shut down of the country’s nuclear industry, and the immediate closure of two reactors of the same or similar design as Fukushima, Garoña and Cofrentes.
USA: The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission approved a 20-year lifetime extension of the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant one day before the earthquake in Japan. The reactor is of the same design as the Fukushima reactors, and will be 60 years old in 2032. The Indian Point nuclear power plant, located on a fault line near New York City, has been moved to the top of the list of plants being reviewed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission as part of an urgent safety review in the wake of the Fukushima accident. Greenpeace supporters are hosting more than 150 vigils throughout the country on March 28th to stand by Japan in this time of crisis. Take action
France: The French government jumped to the defense of nuclear power while the European Union looked for answers to security questions raised by the Fukushima nuclear crisis. Energy Minister Eric Besson said it was his “profound conviction that nuclear energy will stay in Europe and it will be one of the core energies in the 21st century.”
Canada: Greenpeace demanded a government panel suspend hearings to build new nuclear reactors at the Darlington power plant in Ontario until lessons are learned from the Fukushima nuclear disaster. When a hearing went ahead anyway, activists shut it down by chaining themselves to the table in the hearing room.
Sweden: A recent poll shows opposition to nuclear power has more than doubled to 36%, up from 15% two years ago.
Venezuela: President Hugo Chavez has cancelled plans to develop nuclear power with the aid of Russia.
Chile: The Chilean government announced plans to continue cooperation with the US on developing nuclear power. Chile is located inside the “Ring of Fire” seismic zone and prone to earthquakes. On the 20th of March, thousands marched with Greenpeace and other groups to demand clean energy.
Russia: President Dmitry Medvedev acknowledged that additional safety measures around nuclear power are required, and there should be a ban on building plants in areas of high seismic activity. Greenpeace responded by demanding immediate suspension of Russian plans to build floating nuclear power plants, including one planned to be stationed in earthquake-prone Kamchatka. Take action
Belgium: Greenpeace launched a petition to collect 100.000 signatures asking the future government to reaffirm previous plans to phase out nuclear power by 2015 and to make the right choices now for a clean energy future. A government public information campaign outlining what to do in case of a nuclear emergency was released and critiqued for, among other shortcomings, failing to account for transport accidents, limiting iodine distribution to too small a range, and inadequate infrastructure and planning.
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Filed under: 8.Eathquake & Nuclear accident