Issue No.5 Summer
(July 2004)


ENS News

Future of the European Nuclear Industry

ENS General Assembly

Listening to others


ENS Events

RRFM 2005

PIME 2005


Member Societies & Corporate Members

Nuclear R&D in Europe


ENS World News

IAEA publication

Nuclear waste

NucNet news

Links to ENS Member Societies

Links to ENS Corporate Members

Editorial staff




























Dubrovnik, May 17, 2004

Speech by ENS President Bertrand Barré

The Future of the European Nuclear Industry

Bertrand Barré

Dear Colleagues,

ENS, as you know, has always pioneered Europe’s enlargement. The European Union reached 25 members this month, and I have no doubt that Croatia will join in the near future. However all new entrants to the European Union were part of ENS long before accession, and also non-European Union countries, including Russia and Israel are among our member societies…

I really believe the times are propitious for nuclear power. The price of a barrel of crude oil has hit the $40 mark once again: it may be temporary, but more and more reputable geologists predict that world oil production is going to peak within 10 to 15 years. It should be a rather flat peak, followed by a very slow decrease, but this would create an enormous pressure on natural gas, the most likely substitute to oil and presently nuclear power’s fiercest competitor. There is no predicting what the prices of oil and gas will be in the next 2 decades.

By contrast, we know that the costs of nuclear power will remain very stable, as they hardly depend upon the prices of the resources. Uranium accounts for less than 7% of the total kWh cost, versus more than 60% for gas. But even if the big oil and gas crisis is farther away than I believe, we are facing a major dilemma today:

  1. We need more energy for the developing world, including such giants as China, India and Brazil. We should not forget that some 2 billion people currently have no access to electricity. Furthermore, the 6 billion people inhabiting the Earth today will rise to 9 billion around the year 2050.

  2. There is a clear and urgent need to cut our emissions of greenhouse effect gases (GHG); mostly, but not only carbon dioxide. In a mere half-century, we have already doubled the maximum CO2 level ever known to man before in our atmosphere. This is a documented scientific fact, covering a period of 600 000 years.

  3. Out of the 10 billion tons of equivalent oil we consume each year, 80% actually comes from the combustion of fossil fuels, which constitutes the main source of anthropogenic CO2 releases to the atmosphere.

Solving this triple equation may be the toughest challenge we must meet in this half century:

  • It is a formidable challenge even with a significant increase in the share of nuclear power, which supplies today less than 7% of the world’s primary energy;

  • It would be an almost impossible challenge without nuclear power.

But, fortunately, the general atmosphere is improving on the nuclear scene:

  • Asia forges on with its programs (Japan, South Korea, China, India, Taiwan…)

  • In the USA, where utilities are rushing to obtain the authorization to extend the lifetime of their existing reactors, there are signs that new orders might not be too far away.

  • The Russian Federation is awakening from the hibernation that followed the Chernobyl accident and the breakup of the Soviet Union.

  • Europe alone keeps sending conflicting signals, however, the most recent are positive. In Switzerland, two antinuclear referendums were comfortably defeated. Preliminary works have started on the Olkiluoto site in Finland, where the European Pressurized water Reactor EPR supplied to TVO by AREVA and Siemens will be built (I was there last week, and it is indeed heartening to again witness an active nuclear construction site in Europe). Also, the French Prime Minister announced last month that the government will authorize EDF to order another EPR to be built in France very soon.

There is no doubt that big nuclear plants, such as the EPR or ABWR, promise competitive production of baseload power, and are much more predictable than their fossil competitors. However, what about smaller plants for smaller grids? Can smaller plants be competitive for electric power alone? Are the prospects better for combined heat and power, or desalination and power? Honestly said, the jury is still out. This is why today’s conference “Nuclear Option in Countries with Small and Medium Electricity Grids” is very interesting. It should shed a useful light on a very topical issue.

Looking further into the future, in the framework of Generation IV and INPRO, specialists are trying to identify or design better nuclear systems for future decades. Revisiting the breeder options for sustainable generation, considering hydrogen production to access the transportation sector without GHG emissions, etc.

Nuclear power is just 50 years old, as we shall celebrate next July in Obninsk. It is therefore a very young technology with a bright future if we, fellow nuclear scientists and engineers, make it happen together.

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