The future of civil nuclear power applications

In July 2007, Oxford Research Group in London released a report about the future of civil nuclear power applications and about the threat of nuclear proliferation. It's title is "Too hot to handle?" A link to the full article is provided at the end of this text.

Here are the conclusions of the report:

Conclusions

Many of the risks associated with civil nuclear power are well known and have to some extent been managed... just: recall Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, Hiroshima, the Cuban Missile Crisis, Iraq, Dr. A Q Khan and reports of al Qaida's plans. For the nuclear weapons proliferation and nuclear terrorism risks to be worth taking, nuclear must be able to achieve energy security and a reduction in global CO2 emissions more effectively, efficiently, economically and quickly than any other energy source. There is little evidence to support the claim that it can, whereas the evidence for doubting nuclear power's efficacy is clear.

The two current proposals to reduce the risk that a global expansion of nuclear power poses for nuclear weapon proliferation and nuclear terrorism, the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership and the Nuclear Fuel Bank both have serious shortcomings. GNEP requires spent-fuel reprocessing and the use of fast breeder reactors. Both have been shown to be commercial disasters. In addition, FBRs have proved to be very unreliable, uneconomical, and unsafe. Furthermore, current national and international safeguards systems cannot monitor the movement of nuclear materials through reprocessing and enrichment plants sufficiently adequately to ensure that the diversion of nuclear materials from civil to military use will not occur. In short, the plutonium economy will inevitably increase the risk that the capability to fabricate nuclear weapons will spread and that fissile materials will be used by terrorists to make nuclear explosives.

The idea of a nuclear fuel bank operated by the IAEA is seen by many countries to be discriminatory. Countries want to be able to enrich uranium using their own technology in their own plants. Allowing just a few advanced countries to have the monopoly of the technology is unacceptable to many. The NPT gives the non-nuclear-weapon parties to the Treaty powers inalienable right to enrich uranium and requires that the nuclear-weapon parties assist them to do so. To divide the world into countries that can enrich uranium and those that cannot is no-longer acceptable.

For the UK, the twin challenges of CO2 mitigation and energy security can be addressed effectively so long as policy-makers properly review the evidence submitted to the current energy consultation. If a decision to go with nuclear power is taken then the UK will implement a flawed and dangerously counter-productive energy policy - one from which the blowback may be a lot worse than higher heating bills.

The full report is available at http://www.oxfordresearchgroup.org.uk/publications/briefing_papers/pdf/toohottohandle.pdf