Nuclear renaissance in peril after Japan quake
Several countries reassessing stances on nuclear power
By Aude Lagorce, MarketWatch
LONDON (MarketWatch) — A series of incidents at a nuclear plant in Japan after last week’s disastrous earthquake is threatening to snuff out the global nuclear renaissance as popular opinion quickly turns on the technology.
The shift in sentiment, already visible in newspaper headlines and protests across the globe over the weekend, means plans to build dozens of new nuclear reactors could be derailed, to the benefit of alternative energy sources like solar and wind power.
Meanwhile, demand for uranium, which is used to fuel nuclear plants, could drop sharply, while gas prices have started to creep up on expectations that Japan will need to import more liquefied natural gas to make up for the nuclear shortfall.
The end of the atomic era?
Evidence of an abrupt turnaround on nuclear power is gathering quickly, even as the situation in Japan continues to evolve and no one has a firm handle on the eventual outcome of the crisis engulfing several reactors.
“The end of the atomic age,” proclaimed the latest cover of Germany’s major news weekly, Der Spiegel, as some 40,000 protesters gathered in Stuttgart on Saturday to call for an end to nuclear power. Chancellor Angela Merkel was forced to appear on television Sunday night to address the turmoil and reaffirm the country’s commitment to phasing out nuclear.
On Monday, she went a step further and suspended for three months a plan to extend the life of the country’s nuclear plants. Read more on the German nuclear plan’s suspension.
In Germany, where important regional elections are taking place next month, the pressure of public opinion seems to have been too much.
“The sentiment in Germany has completely changed overnight,” said Gerard Reid, head of clean-technology research at Jefferies.
In the U.S., Sen. Joe Lieberman and Rep. Ed Markey, among others, called for a moratorium on any new nuclear-power projects. The U.S. has more than 100 nuclear reactors currently operating.
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