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Friday, 21 April, 2000, 12:29 GMT 13:29 UK
Does nuclear power have a future in Europe?
Can Europe afford to be without civilian nuclear energy?
This week a British newspaper disclosed what it said was a European Commission report, which concluded that Europe must build many more nuclear power stations if it is to meet targets to reduce pollution.
Electricity generation produces one third of all carbon emissions in Europe - and nuclear power produces none.
But how can the nuclear energy programme expand, given the strength of public opposition? What do you think?
For this week's Europewide debate, hosted by Mark Reid, we brought together from Paris Jacques Panossian of the French nuclear information society, the SFEN (Societe Francaise d'Energie Nucleaire), and from Helsinki the Finnish MEP Heide Hautala, who's the new co-chair of the Green group in the European Parliament.
What we should be concentrating on is reducing power usage, using more renewable sources of energy (micro hydro, wind, wave, bio-mass, incinerating rubbish etc.) and re-foresting the UK to absorb CO2.
Paul Yardley, England
Given that Fusion power (fusing together isotopes of Hydrogen to produce heat and helium), much like renewables, probably won't get the research funding it needs, Nuclear Fission (Uranium splitting) Power may be the lesser of two evils.
Here in Greece, where there is an abundance of sun, we are experimenting in solar energy, but we still have a long way to go. Denmark is experimenting in wind energy. Until we are capable of using the sun and the wind efficiently, the best alternative is nuclear. And of course, we must all try to consume less energy. Turn off lights in unattended rooms!
As a high tech worker, I see that the only way to get our power is nuclear!! By getting Nuclear power, one does not have to worry about supply of oil. In Europe for example you pay $5 a gallon, that's a joke!! Our goal now is to make Nuclear power better and also to work on transportation. Oil will run out someday, and most people don't even care!!!
Three decades after being promised that nuclear power will make electricity so cheap that it won't have to be metered, we can easily see that a wide, systems viewpoint was never taken in the planning, design, financing and long term considerations of nuclear power plants.
Nicholas Hanson, United States
Yes nuclear power has a future in Europe and indeed the world. Fossil fuels will soon be gone and natural power sources such as wind power and wave power are not proving viable. More resources should be ploughed into researching safer forms of nuclear power such as fusion though.
Pearl Morrison, USA/UK
Nuclear power is the most viable option for clean power generation. The public's negative image of it is bred by ignorance and poor education of the facts. As for disposal of nuclear waste, why not put it back where it came from originally?
I support nuclear power very much but no one tells me in simple terms what problems exist for high grade and low grade waste in the event of a mass move to nuclear power
The nuclear industry, its apologists and PR spokesmen have done their best to denigrate the alternatives and those who have sought to expose the fundamental dangers of nuclear power.
Quite apart from the now established connection between civilian and military interests, we are now seeing a revival of the NP propaganda onslaught.
It was as a result of this pressure that we abandoned the technology that makes fossil fuels safe and clean. Not much mention of this recently.... On the other hand, there is no way that nuclear waste can ever be avoided or mitigated. We are busily and irrevocably contaminating the planet and that any government is considering adding to this environmental disaster, is an appalling prospect.
Rumiana Dirimanova, Bulgaria, now living in Ireland
Back when most of our energy came from coal, the effects of the company putting profit before safety was limited to the lives of miners and their families. Not nice and we didn't like hearing of mine disasters but at least the effects were limited. Now, BNFL has the potential for world-wide disaster. Their safety record, plus the fact that they once had to rename Windscale as Sellafield, and the safety records of others e.g. Lockheed-Martin, and the operators of Chernobyl, give me no confidence. It is true that a nuclear power station does not produce the same kind of pollution that comes from a fossil-fuel driven station. But it is mistaken to think that they produce none at all, and even more mistaken to trust the people that build and run them.
We should ask what the public opposition really is and what its based on. If it's blind fear then it stands in the way of cheaper energy and a better environment. Fossil fuels have done much to help mankind toward his current health and longevity, but lets not turn back the clock, lets carry on forward.
In the nuclear issue populations are completely mislead by populist politicians and serious greens who do not know what they are talking about. The indisputable fact is that fossil fuel has been and will be far more dangerous than nuclear power. Exploitation of fossil fuel has brought us cars, acid rains, cut forests, mine accidents with tens of thousands of dead altogether, power plant explosions and unnecessary infrastructure to transport fossil fuels that again consumes other resources.
It would seem to me that alternative energy sources that do not produce carbon dioxide are few and far between. Since Europe suffers from the "Not In My Backyard" syndrome, I can only conclude that Europe will become a major net importer of nuclear power from Russia where such apprehensions do not exist.
It would be foolish not to use the environmental advantages of nuclear power. We should not be distracted by the failures of blind avenues like Soviet Design plant like Chernobyl or reprocessing like Sellafield. The basic fact is that Western-Designed, well-regulated plants in Europe USA and Asia have accumulated 7000 or 8000 cumulative years of operation without serious incidents. They have saved countless barrels of fuel oil and billions of tons of greenhouse gases.
If economically competitive, why not allow this technology?
Nuclear power is a viable option for
generating electricity. However, it
has the side effect of creating
radioactive waste. Once it is possible
to reuse fissile materials, there is no
limit to the use of nuclear energy.
However, safety must be foremost in
the operation of any nuclear plant,
but as oil becomes scarce, nuclear
power does have a future.
We don't have a choice. Fossil fuels cannot last forever, and there is only so much power that wind and hydroelectric generators can provide.
So it's either nuclear power or back to the land...
If the right reactors will be used there should not be any problem using more nuclear power in the future.
The reactors, which have been used up to now, are inadequate and dangerous - they have been responsible for the bad picture people have these days of nuclear power.
Pablo Frezzi, Argentina
Nuclear power needs to have a future. Every source of energy pollutes in some sort of way and nuclear power, when treated with care, can be one of the safest forms with pollution in localised and unseen places. Until another power form can be found which can create the equivalent amount of energy, without the GLOBAL pollution of the carbon fuels, then there is not really any other way to go.
Nuclear power may not be the long term future of power supply, per se, but there is no viable alternative available except burning fossil fuels at this time. (The irony of solar cell technology is that it takes more energy to make one than it will ever generate in its entire life.)
Typical of complainers, the anti-nuclear lobbies bombard us with their negativity but fail to suggest viable solutions.
A slightly more viable option would be tidal power. Put a sort of barrier across a large estuary and use the incoming and outgoing tide to turn turbines and hence generate electricity. This is probably the most damage free and high generating of the "green" options available. But as we have nuclear power already, on the whole it is risk free and would be highly costly and damaging to get rid of. Why not make use of it's full potential.
Europe has no business with nuclear energy.
Is there going to be a qualified safety standard?
If the people at the switches aren't trained or the plant wasn't built correctly, then you are going to see a lot of trouble. All it takes is one accident and you can kiss your country's population goodbye. Radiation kills.
I think that nuclear power should only be used for emergency power shortages. This particular type of power is polluting our plant with toxic waste and what enrages me is England is dumping it in our country. I feel that the European government should be looking into cleaner more efficient ways of powering our planet.
It doesn't really matter if we go with Nuclear power or Fossil fuels
both of them pollute the environment just in different ways.
Anyone who has ever passed the outflow of Didcot Power
Station on the River Thames will have seen the signs warning
people not to swim. In general fossil fuels pollute visibly
continuously but reasonably slowly. Nuclear power on the
other hand tends to pollute little and invisibly until something
goes wrong, when you can surely tell.
The answer is to try to use less of both.
Tim Schoettle, USA
I congratulate the media in raising awareness of the risks associated with nuclear power generation, but why is it that so little attention is paid to the safety (or lack of it) of nuclear power generation over the whole cycle? That cycle involves considerable risk at so many stages, but TRANSPORTATION as a stage has been (perhaps understandably) played down. Keeping energy consumption DOWN and keeping it as LOCAL as possible (i.e. within the same continent!) would appear to be prudent steps (time to turn this machine off!).
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