World Nuclear Association Blog

Banking on Nuclear

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The nuclear industry needs to satisfy the multi-criteria approach to risk that banks take when they decide whether to invest in a large infrastructure project. Only then, can it expect to attract this form of financing to nuclear new build projects, writes Ron Cameron on the latest WNN Editorial article.

Specifically,says Cameron, banks look for long-term certainty on price, stable government policy, industry reputation, regulatory certainty, the process for addressing planning and environmental issues and public acceptance, in addition to the economics of the project.

Cameron argues that European wholesale electricity markets are currently not favourable to nuclear power, however. That, he says, is because the role of nuclear in offsetting the negative effect on price of feed-in tariffs and grid priorities for renewable forms of energy is not adequately recognised. The cost to the system of having intermittency of supply is often borne by the nuclear plants through their role in providing back-up generating capacity or otherwise by the consumer through higher electricity prices, subsidies or taxes. With no level playing field for nuclear in liberalised electricity markets, there is a real difficulty in seeing where nuclear new build is going to come from in Europe, without government action. Cameron thinks that there is a need to explicitly recognise the advantages that nuclear power provides to stabilise these markets long term, to support the move to a low carbon economy and to help with security of supply.

Read more on WNN:

Onagawa: The NPP that withstood the tsunami

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A fascinating brochure has been published outlining the story of the Onagawa nuclear power plant and how it withstood the earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011. It is available here.

The report reviews the differences between what happened at Fukushima Daiichi, Fukushima Daini and Onagawa. 

Onagawa faced a stronger earthquake and tsunami of similar height to Fukushima Daiichi, at around 13m. The earthquake disrupted external power supplies, but with a combination of one remaining external power line and six of the eight diesel generators the plants shut down and cooling systems started as planned - in fact Unit 2 was in the process of starting up as the earthquake struck and reached cold shutdown a few minutes later.     

When the tsunami struck the damage caused to Onagawa was much less severe than at Fukushima Daiichi and Daini, because the Onagawa plant had been built at a height of 14.8m, higher than the tsunami waves. There was some disruption to unit 2 cooling, but all reactors achieved cold shutdown as planned.

The preparedness and efforts of staff at Onagawa were recognised when they were presented with a WANO (World Association of Nuclear Excellence) Award for Nuclear Excellence.

 Onagawa WANO 
Onagawa staff whose combined efforts earned them a WANO Nuclear Excellence Award 

Perhaps even more remarkable is how the Onagawa nuclear plant became a place of refuge for people from the area surrounding the plant, where many had died, and even more had been made homeless.

On March 11, 1,500 people working at the site were stranded, without any reports how their friends and family outside the plant had fared. From the devastated surrounding area 50 people sought shelter at the plant. Eventually the site would become a refuge for 364 people from the local community.

 Onagawa Refugees  

Local refugees offered shelter in Onagawa gymnasium

The article shows how robust nuclear power plants are when back up power supplies and flood defences are properly in place. Since the accident at Fukushima 'stress tests' have been carried out at reactors around the world to ensure that plants are sufficiently prepared. Even at Onagawa defences have been strengthened even more.


Finding focus on electricity and the environment

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Can debates over radioactive emissions from coal and nuclear or greenhouse gas emissions from nuclear and renewables distract from the real environmental impacts of electricity generation?

A lot of good discussion takes place on WNA's facebook page. If you use facebook, we'd be happy if you "liked" our page and join in.

On one particular exchange the debate was taking place in the light of the recent EU Energy and Climate Change plan, which creates more scope for nuclear energy to play a role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the EU. Understandably, the debate focussed on the different forms of environmental impacts caused by different generation sources.

It was suggested that nuclear proponents repeatedly claim that radiation exposure in the vicinity of coal fired power plants is much higher than for nuclear plants. WNA's own take on this is that this claim is often not correct, as generally the pollutants from coal fired power stations that contain the naturally occurring radioactive materials are retained - see our info paper on NORMs for more. However, other sources suggest it may be true that in some cases, for example this US Environmental Protection Agency self-assessment form suggests radiation exposure from living near coal power plants is more than three times higher than living near nuclear plants.

But this debate is a distraction. Radiation exposure levels from either coal or nuclear generation are at levels that are not harmful. Focussing on radiation exposure completely misses the point in terms of the most harmful environmental and health effects of electricity generation.

Debates of this kind are similar to those over whether wind, solar or nuclear have higher greenhouse gas emissions. Study after study has shown that, aside from exceptional cases, greenhouse gas emissions from nuclear and renewables are very low, and more importantly are much lower than for fossil fuels, as shown in a review of LCA studies WNA published a couple of years ago. It's like arguing whether an apple or an orange has more fat in it when the point is that you are having fruit instead of a packet of crisps.

Not that it is just greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels that can be harmful. In China alone, the smog-like pollution from coal power plants is thought to be responsible for a quarter of a million deaths a year This is on top of any long term CO2 impacts. If you happen to be one of those who doubts the case for climate change then there are plenty of other reasons to still support a move away from fossil fuels, particularly coal.

No one should underestimate the effort required to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to the levels required. No single technology - be it nuclear, solar, wind or energy efficiency - is going to be enough. All will be needed, and for that reason no one low carbon technology should hamper the potential for growth of any other.

What is needed is a practical approach with an emphasis on energy diversity among low carbon options. Countries like Sweden and France have already shown that you can have a very secure low carbon generation sector with different mixes of renewables and nuclear. In contrast, Germany seems to be showing that cutting one option - nuclear - out of the mix means greater fossil fuel use.

New redesigned WNA website

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WNA has relaunched its public website, with a new design, new content and new features. 

Central to the new design is WNA's Information Library, containing comprehensive coverage of all aspects of nuclear energy, country policy and the broader uses of nuclear power.

A new categorisation and menu system allows easier access to related papers. For example, all the country profiles can be viewed on one page. Another example is our page showing all our Nuclear Fuel Cycle info papers.

Country profiles are also among those pages that benefit from greater links with WNN. Pages show the latest related WNN news articles, updated live.

A new section Nuclear Basics answers some of the key questions on nuclear energy in succinct documents designed to provide some of the main facts in an accessible form.

The WNA section brings together content covering the wide range of activities carried out by the association. There is information about WNA itself, news about our ranged of conferences, details on our many publications and links to the network of other nuclear associations and some of the broader energy organizations.


Improvements to the WNA reactor database

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The WNA reactor database has been upgraded to improve the display of information for multi-reactor sites. Before this update the icons for reactors on the same site overlapped unless the map was zoomed in close enough to separate them. This meant that when, for example, searching for all the reactors in one country only the details for the one reactor at each site would be shown when clicking on the icons.

The new update now shows one icon for each site at wider zoom levels. Clicking on these icons brings up a pop-up list of all reactors at that site relevant to your search. You can click on the name of any of the reactors in the list to be taken to the individual page for that reactor.


Site map


The list of reactors shown will match the search criteria used. If your search was for operating reactors in the UK then the list for Sizewell would only show Sizewell B.

When zoomed in the icons for each reactor now reflects its operating status. Clicking on each icon will show brief details for that reactor, again, clicking on the reactor's name in the pop-up will link to a page with full reactor details.


Reactor icons map

The different icons used are:


 Planned Planned
 Suspended Suspended indefinitely/Cancelled
 Under Construction Under Construction
 Construction Suspended Construction suspended
 Operating Operating
 Not operating Not operating
 Shut down Shut down


The icons are placed near to their respective reactors, rather than directly on top, in part to avoid obscuring the reactors.

More upgrades to the database are being developed and should be released over the coming months.

Responding to the Fukushima Accident

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Since 11 March 2011 the World Nuclear Assocation has been actively involved in dealing with press enquiries and requests for interviews, as well as providing our own news service through WNN. We have also produced a new Fukushima Accident information paper, as well as updating our existing information papers on relevant topics, such as the safety of nuclear power plants.

We have collected our news articles and links to relevant pages of the WNA Public Information Service on this Fukushima Portal page.