Despite the Fukushima tragedy in Japan in March 2011 the world continues to build nuclear reactors. As Australia’s Climate Spectator reported, the OECD has come out with a new study which forecasts a strong expansion of nuclear power as a carbon-free energy source in Asia. World nuclear capacity is expected to grow by 44% to 99% by 2035. East Asia will grow by 125% to 185% by 2035 with the strongest growth in China, India, South Korea and Russia. The uranium mining industry should be able to supply the needs of the nuclear industry as long as investment keeps flowing into the sector. This sector will become more reliant on mined production after next year upon the end of Russia’s deal to supply material from old weapons to the U.S. uranium market. Under the Megatons to Megawatts treaty, Russia has supplied the U.S. market with about 25 million lb a year of downgraded uranium from old nuclear weapons.

In a related post, China Daily said China has no choice but to go nuclear. Currently 12 nuclear reactors are being built, accounting for 41% of the world’s total under construction. Late last year the nation’s National Energy Administration made it clear that nuclear energy would be the foundation of the country’s power generation system over the next 10 to 20 years. Despite its abundance of coal, “the harsh reality of energy shortage has forced the country to realize the strategic importance of nuclear energy…China has set a medium-term target of achieving 40 gigawatts in nuclear power generation capacity by 2020. It has yet to decide whether it should aim for 120 GW, 240 GW or 360 GW – 30% of its total energy generation – by 2050.” The post goes on to highlight the benefits of China taking a big leap into nuclear.

Der Spiegel had a piece on Japan’s quandary with nuclear energy. “In the wake of the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe, Japan turned its attention to renewable energies. Such technologies, however, will take years to develop. In the mean time, the country is importing increased amounts of fossil fuels — and flirting with a return to nuclear energy.”

Germany may have to rethink its electricity strategy as it attempts to abandon nuclear energy said Bloomberg. The country may readjust targets linked to its efforts to exit nuclear energy-generation by 2022 if jobs are threatened. This comes after it was announced the country may fail to reach a goal to cut power consumption 10% by 2020. Germany is struggling to grasp the scale of the effort needed to shift away from nuclear power 16 months after it voted to phase out nuclear reactors in favor of renewable such as solar and wind.  Now it is finding the task much more difficult than it imagined, particularly with no technologies to store solar and wind energy. “Overhauling the energy mix while making sure it remains secure, affordable and environmentally friendly is not an easy path,” Chancellor Angela Merkel said this week. Germany was hoping to close its remaining 9 nuclear facilities by 2022, build offshore wind farms that will cover an area six times the size of New York City and build or upgrade as much as 8,200 kilometers (5,100 miles) of electric power lines. The nuclear exit is coupled with goals to increase energy efficiency and raise the share of renewable-energy output in its electric power mix to at least 35% by the end of this decade. However, slow progress in meeting its goals is causing the government to reassess its plans. On the same topic see Der Spiegel Doubts Rising Over German Switch To Renewables.

REVMODO told us Switzerland wants to replace nuclear energy with solar to generate electricity. In 2011, the Swiss parliament decided not to build any more nuclear power plants after the Fukushima disaster in Japan. Nuclear currently supplies some 40% of the country’s energy needs. The government is hoping to replace half of this energy with solar.  However, the electric industry would prefer more reliable but carbon emitting natural gas. Also under debate is whether solar power should be fully subsidized by the government (as Germany does) in order to expedite installations. In this regard, rooftop solar plants are being discussed as the way to move forward with solar energy plans. However, it is recognized that solar by itself will not replace 24/7 baseload nuclear energy and Switzerland is looking at a mix of wind and biomass, and later, geothermal and small hydropower plants to make up the difference. Options might also include importing energy created by wind farms in the Baltic Sea or from solar plants in the deserts of North Africa.

Slate wrote about The New Gas Guzzlers. “China, India, Brazil and other developing countries will soon consume most of the world’s oil.”  The International Energy Agency projects that starting next year the wealthy nations of Europe, North America, and Japan will account for less than one-half the world’s oil consumption. The article discusses the reasons for this change (more efficient motor vehicles in developed economies coupled with more vehicles on the road in developing countries) and what it means for Americans.

silicone republic had an infographic on how energy efficient buildings work.

Forbes told us how wireless charging will make our lives simpler and greener. “Wireless power could reduce demand for power cables while making gadgets more durable, eliminate the need for throwaway batteries, and perhaps even accelerate the adoption of electric cars. Watchers of this embryonic market think it’s going to be huge.”

The San Francisco Chronicle referred us to a new study on the global hydrogen and storage technologies market. Global Industry Analysis projects the global market for hydrogen and storage technologies will reach US$1.4 billion by 2018. Market growth is being driven by an increasing preference for renewable energy, rising oil prices, and an increased focus on reducing carbon dioxide emissions. Hydrogen has the potential to provide secure, affordable, safe, and clean energy from various sources. However, due to its non-availability in pure form, hydrogen is considered to be an energy carrier rather than an energy source. This means it can efficiently store as well as deliver energy in an easily usable manner. Many expect hydrogen to provide an inexhaustible and clean alternate to fossil fuels in meeting transportation fuel, electricity and other energy requirements. In order to increase the availability of hydrogen at a wider scale, hydrogen production and storage technologies need to be made more commercially viable. Various start-ups as well as established multinational firms are in the process of developing hydrogen-based technologies for industrial applications. At the same time auto makers such as Toyota, General Motors and Honda have already developed prototype vehicles which would be powered by hydrogen fuel cells. You can access the report here.






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