EDITOR: | April 6th, 2013

The Pulse: Nuclear saves (yes, saves) lives; Wind crunch in China; Solar soars

| April 06, 2013 | No Comments
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Pulse_Proof-04-300x229Nuclear energy has saved — yes, saved — 1.84 million lives. And it has saved the Earth’s atmosphere from 66 billion tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions.

This is the inclusion reached by two scientists writing in the American Chemical Society’s journal, Environmental Science and Technology. Pushker Kharecha and James Hansen of NASA’s Goddard Institute looked at all the historical data between 1971 and 2009 and calculated how many more people would have died over the years from atmosphere-related issues such as respiratory diseases had nuclear not existed and, instead, that quantity of electricity had been generated by fossil fuel plants. They go on to extrapolate those figures over the next four decades —and conclude that nuclear power will save as many as 7 million more lives by around 2050.

In other words, nuclear energy has prevented many more deaths than it has caused.

Another conclusion of the report: natural gas is not nearly as effective as nuclear when it comes to preventing deaths due to air pollution and cutting carbon dioxide emissions. “We assess that large-scale expansion of unconstrained natural gas use would not mitigate the climate problem and would cause far more deaths than expansion of nuclear power,” they write.

The authors calculated the historical figures over the next 40 years and applied them to two scenarios: replacing nuclear generated power by coal-fired stations, and then by natural gas ones.

Just as well, then, that some countries are getting on with the business of building nuclear reactors. It is reported that Finland’s power company, Fennovoima, is in talks with Russia’s Rossatom for the latter to build a reactor at Pyhaejoki in northern Finland. The Finns have been previously been discussing the project with Toshiba.

Meanwhile, The Financial Times reports that Turkey has reduced to two the number of companies it will decide between when it comes to awarding the country’s first nuclear power station tender. The finalists are Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and China’s Guangdong Nuclear Power Corp. Both the South Koreans and Canadians pulled out of the tender process. At the same time, the Nikkei news service said the Japanese have got the nod and will partner with France’s Areva.

GREEN ENERGY/EMERGING MARKETS: There’s both good news and bad news.

First, China Daily has provided a less than glowing picture of its wind power industry. Most of the country’s turbines are being under utilised, the newspaper reports. China lost 20 billion kilowatt hours in 2012 due to turbines being idle. Had those blades been turning all the time, that would have saved China burning 6.78 million tonnes of coal to generate electricity. The worst affected wind farms were in northeast and northern China and in western parts of Inner Mongolia. Wind power now provides the third largest power source in the country after coal-fired and hydro.

Better news from India. The Manila-based Asian Development Bank says another 60,000 households in rural India will from 2015 have access to electricity due to bank-supported solar pay-as-you-go schemes. As the bank says, electricity means children can study beyond sunset, smoky fuels such as kerosene are eliminated from homes and respiratory health improved. The ADB has kicked in $2 million to help Simpa Networks offer a scheme whereby householders make a small down-payment to have the solar system installed and then make small incremental payments until the system is fully paid for.

And there’s a push for more solar power in North Africa, too. The Ivory Coast-based African Development Bank is pushing ahead with its regional Investment Plan for Concentrated Solar Power, aiming to triple worldwide solar capacity with new installations across Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and Jordan. This will involve constructing up to 12 commercial-scale solar plants. The most advanced planning is in Morocco where it is expected to have 2,000 megawatts of generating solar capacity by 2020.

And Nikkei reports that South Korea’s Hanwha Group plans to spend more than $300 million to build solar power plants in Japan with a combined capacity of 100 megawatts. “The midsize conglomerate’s core businesses are chemicals and financial services, but it regards solar cells as a growth driver and acquired German solar cell giant Q-Cells last summer,” Nikkei said. Hanwha will use solar panels made within the group to help lower plant construction costs. A Tokyo subsidiary, Hanwha Q Cells Japan Co., currently sells solar panels here.


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