Swedish Report Highlights Benefits Of ‘Sustainable’
A new report published in Sweden says that
uranium should be regarded as a “long-term sustainable resource”
that has an important role to play in the sustainable development
of future energy sources.
Known uranium reserves will last for “hundreds
of years with present-day technology”… and “can
be expected to last for thousands of years” as new reactor
types are developed, says the report, published in December 2004
by the Analysis Group of the Swedish Nuclear Training and Safety
The report acknowledges “uncertainties”
in the economics of some future types of reactors, but says: “It
is already clear that there is a considerable development potential
for nuclear power technology, following several lines of development,
so that much better use can be made of the fuel raw material than
in present-day reactors. There is therefore justification for
the claim that the world’s uranium resources can suffice
for increased nuclear power production for thousands
Discussing estimates of how long uranium reserves
will last, the report argues that present economically viable
deposits are regarded as being those with concentrations of at
least 0.1% uranium, and on that basis “available reserves
would last for 50 years at the present rate of
However, the report argues, “doubling
the price of uranium, which would have only little effect on the
overall cost of nuclear power, would increase reserves to hundreds
By way of example, the report looks at Sweden
where it says, “in rough figures”, nuclear power costs
not more than 20 Swedish öre per kilowatt hour (kWh) to produce
(100 öre being equivalent to 0.11 euros) – inclusive
of the costs of capital, modernisation, operation and
maintenance, fuel disposal, taxes and levies.
“Nuclear power generation in Sweden today
pays all its own costs, including those of future waste disposal,
and receives no public subsidies. In fact, if anything, it is
a golden-egg-laying goose for the state,” says the report.
It also points out that Swedish nuclear power utilities pay the
equivalent of more than 221 million euros a year in total under
levies imposed by Sweden’s special nuclear power tax and
electricity tax [see also News No. 91, 3rd March 2003].
The report says that almost 3 öre of nuclear’s
variable cost of 3.5 öre per kWh in Sweden is for the fuel.
“This means that a doubling in the cost of natural uranium,
from 1 öre per kWh to 2 öre per kWh would increase the
total cost of nuclear power from 20 öre per kWh to 21 öre
per kWh (a 5% increase).”
If the price of natural gas was doubled, the
cost of gas-fired power would increase by about 60%, while doubling
the price of coal would increase the cost of power production
in a large coal-fired power station by about 30%, the report claims.
Swedish Report Highlights Benefits Of ‘Sustainable’
In terms of the “sustainability”
of uranium, the report describes a “classic definition”
of sustainable development as that formulated by the former Norwegian
prime minister, Gro Harlem Brundtland. (Dr Brundtland chaired
the World Commission of Environment and Development – the
Brundtland Commission – when it published a report in 1987
that said: “Sustainable development is development that
meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability
of future generations to meet their own needs.”)
The Swedish report says: “No parts of
the nuclear fuel cycle emit significant quantities of carbon dioxide.
It has been claimed that enrichment of uranium requires large
quantities of electricity, most of which is produced in coal-fired
power stations, and therefore contributes to the greenhouse effect.
This is a distorted picture, as the amount of electricity required
by a modern enrichment facility to produce a given quantity of
enriched uranium is about one-thousandth of the amount of electricity
that that quantity of uranium will subsequently generate.”
In terms of nuclear waste, the report points
out that all the costs of future safe waste storage are paid.
It refers to the waste from planned Swedish nuclear power production
– 12 units with an installed capacity of 10,000 megawatts
– that “could be held in a single deep repository”
about the size of an indoor sports arena. The report adds : “Nuclear
power does not, in other words, leave any problems for coming
generations”. The 12 units include unit one of the Barsebäck
nuclear power plant that was shut down in 1999 [see also News
No. 217, 17th December 2004].
In conclusion, the report says nuclear power
does not necessarily need to become a “dominant” energy
source in the long term, although “there is a need for society
today to accept nuclear power as one of many energy sources that
will make it possible to continue to produce the electricity required
and to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and their climate effects”.
*The Analysis Group’s latest report –
“Uranium - a sustainable energy source” – is
available in printed form in Swedish and English, and can also
be downloaded in pdf format from the Group’s website (www.analys.se).
Source: Analysis Group / KSU
Editor: John Shepherd
Climate Of Opinion Puts Nuclear Back On Poland’s
More than a decade ago, nuclear energy specialists
in Poland warned political leaders about the environmental and
economic risks of the country turning its back on nuclear power.
Their warnings about the threat to the environment
of heavy domestic dependence on burning fossil fuels [see Background
No. 37, 15th July 1993] were lost in the fog of political debate
and, in 1990, the development of nuclear power in Poland was halted
by a parliamentary decision.
However, the present day government has now
embraced nuclear again – largely due to environmental concerns.
In the energy policy document accepted by the cabinet on 4th January
2005, the government acknowledged that Poland would need a nuclear
power plant to be in commercial operation within the next 17 years
[see News No. 3, 5th January 2005].
When the country’s earlier nuclear programme
was halted, construction work was 60% completed on what was to
be Poland’s first nuclear power plant – the two-unit
Zarnowiec plant on the Baltic coast. The National Atomic Energy
Agency said later that financial difficulties prompted the decision
to stop building.
Although nuclear plant construction ended, statistics
continued to show that Poland needed to have nuclear as part of
its future energy mix if the country was to help combat climate
change. In 1999, the Polish national committee of the World Energy
Council said the country would almost certainly have to develop
a nuclear power programme within the next 20 years in order to
meet its international commitments on stabilising greenhouse gas
emissions [see News No.283, 5th July 1999].
In 2002, a report by the International Atomic
Energy Agency – “Comparative studies of energy supply
options in Poland for 1997-2020” – said although no
new nuclear capacity was forecast in any scenario over the period
under study: “It should be emphasised that beyond 2020 the
prospects for nuclear energy (or some new technology) might be
brighter, taking into account that domestic coal production will
be limited and the import of natural gas is constrained by the
existing and presently planned pipeline infrastructure as well
as for energy security reasons.”
Also in 2002, the European Electricity Market
Outlook report published by the Finnish federation of energy industries,
Finergy, said between 60,000 and 70,000 megawatts of additional
installed electricity production capacity would be needed in several
countries – including Poland – over the next 10 years.
The Finergy report took no position with regard
to energy policy options, but highlighted the fact that Europe
as a whole would soon have to come to terms with the same supply
and demand fundamentals that led to Finland’s decision (in
May 2002) to construct a new nuclear power unit
[see News No. 275, 26th August 2002].
Although Poland has no nuclear plants in operation
at present, the country is successful in the use of radioactivity
and radioisotopes in medical diagnosis and treatment, agriculture
Source: Polish Council of Ministers / Various
Editor: John Shepherd