"Nuclear Energy Represents an Enormous Commitment for Investors"
10 May, 2007 06:58 pm
Segment of an interview with Jan Horst Keppler, director of the Energy program at the French Institute of International Relation (IFRI) and professor at Paris-Deauphine University.
Nuclear energy could play a positive role in order to reach the EU objective of a 20% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
But is there a “nuclear renaissance” occurring? It’s partially true, but one needs to look at it region by region.
In Asia (China, South Korea), it is true that there is a strong demand for new nuclear power plants.
In the United States, the “energy act”, that was signed a year and a half ago, is quite favorable to nuclear energy. It contained solutions regarding the storage of waste, the simplification of administrative procedures, and subsidies for six new nuclear power plants. Unfortunately, this voluntary effort has not produced any results.
In Europe, new EPR nuclear power plants are being constructed, in Flamanville, France and in Finland as well. Unfortunately, it is not clear that these two reactors will be followed by a series of others reactors. Which would be interesting. Actually, in Europe there is a process of liberalization of the electricity market which induces a certain amount of price fluctuation. This is not a good thing for technologies with high setup costs. Before one produces the first mw/h, one has to invest 70% of the total cost of the reactor. This represents an enormous commitment for investors. If the visibility of return on investment is low, then it’s not very attractive to investors. The same goes for renewable energies.
And public opinion is quite reluctant…
The standard approach of the commission is: this is a national choice. Therefore, some countries have approved, while others have not.
But public opinion changes. Tony Blair’s government launched very strong signals in favor of a new generation of nuclear reactors. The same goes for Italy.
Today in Sweden the majority of the population favors nuclear energy. The key country is Germany. I’m not aware of what the latest polls show, but a strong evolution is taking place. And one of the leaders of German industry, Siemens, is present alongside Areva in Framatone, and involved in the construction of the Finnish reactor. A total revolution is occurring in Europe.
Interview by Jean-Luc Prigent and Gilles Prigent for Newsteam press agency.
Translated by Christopher Le Coq.