WNA Buzz

Monbiot: Environmental movement has done more harm to the planet's living systems than climate change deniers

(Environment, Climate Change) Permanent link

 
George Monbiot's latest article deals with wastes from nuclear power plants and fossil fuels. For nuclear power plants Monbiot highlights recent proposals to build an Integral Fast Reactor to burn used fuel from conventional nuclear reactors, as recently reported in WNN. But Monbiot's blog also draws attention to the increases in carbon dioxide wastes that will arise from Germany's decision to switch from away from nuclear and the resultant increase in use of fossil fuels. That decision will result in coal power plants in Germany polluting the atmosphere with 300 million tonnes of carbon dioxide between now and 2020.

In Monbiot's view the decisions taken this year to shut down nuclear power plants are the result of an "almost medieval misrepresentation of science and technology". Anti-nuclear campaigners have, he says, "generated as much mumbo jumbo as creationists, anti-vaccine scaremongers, homeopaths and climate change deniers."

Of course nuclear power plants do produce waste, although much less than from fossil fuels. According to figures from the UK regulator Ofgem generating a kilowatthour of electricity (enough to power an energy efficient light bulb for three days) results in the production of 0.012 grammes of radioactive waste. In contrast generating the same amount of electricity would result in the production of 400 grammes of carbon dioxide from gas or 910 grammes of CO2 from coal.

However, even the relatively small amount of what is called waste from nuclear power plants can be used again. Many existing reactors can use MOX fuel, which can be made from uranium and plutonium extracted from reprocessing used nuclear fuel. The UK government has recently confirmed that using MOX fuel is its preferred option for plutonium disposal. Monbiot focusses on another option, the Intergral Fast Reactor. The proposed Prism fast reactor could be used to help the UK in disposing of its of reactor-grade plutonium and generate electricity. Although not currently planned, the used PRISM fuel could reprocessed and recycled. Read more in the Guardian article or fully referenced on Monbiot's blog.

Does the latest BBC survey really show a lack of support for nuclear?

 Permanent link


The BBC has published a survey carried out by GlobalScan. The BBC entitle their article "Nuclear power 'gets little public support worldwide'".  The survey does show a general fall in support for nuclear, unsurprising given the events of the Fukushima accident are still fresh in the mind, although changes in opinion vary widely from country to country and increases in support are noted in the UK and  USA. But for the BBC to claim the poll shows little public support for nuclear requires a very selective interpretation of the results.

The survey carried out asked participants in 23 countries to indicate which of the three statements best reflected their view of the generation of electricity with nuclear reactors:

  • Nuclear power is dangerous and we should close down all operating nuclear power plants as soon as possible.
  • We should use the nuclear power plants that we already have, but we should not build new ones.
  • Nuclear power is relatively safe and an important source of electricity, and we should build new nuclear power plants. 

Separately the respondents were asked to indicate how much they agreed or disagreed with the statement:

  • To what extent do you agree or disagree that, by becoming highly energy efficient and focusing on generating energy from the sun and wind, [their country] could almost entirely replace coal and nuclear energy within 20 years?

In reporting the results the BBC article states:

Just 22% agreed that "nuclear power is relatively safe and an important source of electricity, and we should build more nuclear power plants".

In contrast, 71% thought their country "could almost entirely replace coal and nuclear energy within 20 years by becoming highly energy-efficient and focusing on generating energy from the Sun and wind".
 

Expressed in this way the BBC's report gives the suggestion that people were choosing between either supporting nuclear or replacing both nuclear and coal with energy efficiency and solar and wind power. In fact these are responses to wholly separate questions, and half of those surveyed weren't even asked the second question.

The statement that "nuclear power gets little public support worldwide" might lead you to consider that the majority of people don't support the use of nuclear power. In fact, the conclusion can only be reached by considering the statement "We should use the nuclear power plants that we already have, but we should not build new ones" to be not supporting nuclear power. Is that fair? Is agreeing with a statement "We should use the nuclear power plants that we already have" not supporting nuclear power?

This selective portrayal of the results carries through in subtle ways to the graphs presented by GlobeScan . In summarizing the results they present the following chart:

GlobeScan survey 

In representing the range of views GlobeScan peculiarly put the 'middle' view of continued operation of current plant but no new build on the left of their chart in a deep blue. The central bars represent those wanting to close nuclear plants now, shown in a lighter blue. By showing these two responses in blue they are linked together. Support for new nuclear build is shown in a contrasting yellow.

The very same data could have been shown in a different way, such as that below:

GlobeScan revised 

In this chart those supporting an immediate shutdown of nuclear power plants are shown in yellow. Those supporting continued operation of existing plants are shown in the centre in a light blue and those supporting new nuclear build in a dark blue. The chart now shows much more clearly that in 19 of the 23 countries polled those wishing to close down nuclear power plants are in the minority, something that does not fit with the BBC's "Nuclear power 'gets little public support worldwide'" headline.

Zbigniew Jaworowski

 Permanent link


We have just learned that the distinguished authority on radiation health matters, Zbigniew Jaworowski, has died, aged 84.  He will be greatly missed.

Professor Zbigniew Jaworowski is a retired chairman of the Scientific Council of the Central Laboratory for Radiological Protection in Warsaw, and former chair of the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR). He was born in Krakow, Poland, and graduated as a physician in 1952 at the Medical Academy in Krakow. In 1963 he received his PhD in natural sciences, and in 1967 his DSc in natural sciences.

Dr. Jaworowski was a member of UNSCEAR from 1973 to 2010, and was its chairman 1980-82. He was participant or chairman of about 20 Advisory Groups of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and of the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP). He has published about 300 scientific papers and four books, and has participated in writing and editing 10 published scientific documents of UNSCEAR, IAEA and UNEP.  He also published about 60 articles in Polish newspapers and popular science magazines.

His paper on The Chernobyl Disaster and how it has been Understood is on the WNA web site: http://www.world-nuclear.org/publications/personalperspectives.html 

Atomic Robots on Mars!

(Space) Permanent link


Mars Curiosity large 
Artist's impression of Mars Curiosity in action (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech) 

NASA robots have sent back amazing images and scientific data for decades but how will the next, the Mars Curiosity rover, get around and operate its experiments?

The answer is with nuclear power. But Curiosity won't be using a miniature nuclear reactor. Instead it will rely on radioisotope thermoelectric generators (RTGs) that will provide power through the heat produced by the radioactive decay of an isotope of plutonium called Pu-238.

The RTGs on Curiosity will produce around 2kW of heat, which will be used to keep the rover warm and provide around 110 W of electrical power. This is similar to the peak power produced by the solar panels on the Opportunity and Spirit rovers used in previous Mars missions.

But for Spirit and Opportunity the rising and setting of the Sun, the blocking out of sunlight by dust storms and the accumulation of dust on the panels means that those rovers produced only around 900 watt-hours of power a day at best and, in the case of Spirit, eventually so little that it stopped working when power production fell as low as 89 watt-hours per day.

In contrast Curiosity will produce 2500 watt-hours of energy each 24 hour 37 minute Martian day. This will allow for more powerful tools and experiments, longer drives and night time operations. As the Pu-238 decays, with a half-life of 87.7 years, the power output will slowly decline, but even after ten years the heat output of the RTG will still be over 90% of it's original output. 

Mars Curiosity is due to launch at the end of November and should reach Mars in August 2012.

NASA have released a video with more information on Curiosity and its power source. For more information on RTGs see our page on Nuclear Reactors for Space


 

Nuclear and Renewables on the up in the UK

(Environment, Climate Change, Energy) Permanent link

 
UK Government figures show that electricity supplied by nuclear and renewables surged ahead in Q2 2011, as carbon-free sources supplied 31% of all electricity demand, up from just over 21% for the same period in 2010. Nuclear supplied 21.3% of UK electricity and renewables 9.6%.

Electricity supplied by renewables (including hydro, wind, wave, sewage gas, landfill, other biofuels and solar) generated 7.9 TWh of electricity, up 50% on the same period the year before. Nuclear generation supplied 17.4 TWh, up 38% on the previous year.

UK Q2 Electricity 

More details available from the UK Government Department of Energy and Climate Change

 

TEPCO release video of inside of Fukushima Daiichi Unit 2

(Safety, Energy) Permanent link


TEPCO have released a video taken by the Quince robot, showing the inside of Fukushima Daichi Unit 2. The Unit 2 reactor did not suffer the same damage to the outer structure as was the case for units 1, 3 and 4 and the interior areas shown in the video appear relatively free of damage.

More information on developments can be found on WNA's Fukushima portal page, available here: http://world-nuclear.org/fukushima/ 

Have renewables passed nuclear in the US?

(Energy) Permanent link


Recently there has been quite a lot of attention about "renewables passing nuclear" in the US. This comes from data published by the US Energy Information Adminstration (http://www.eia.gov/totalenergy/data/monthly/pdf/sec1_5.pdf).

This data shows primary energy production in the US, measured in Quadrillion Btu (British Thermal Units) and showed that, indeed, in the first three months of 2011 the combined primary energy produced by hydro, biomass, wind, solar PV and geothermal (2.245 quadrillion Btus) was indeed higher than that produced by nuclear (2.125 quadrillion Btus).

Funny thing is renewables also overtook nuclear in November 2010... and March 2010... and October 2009... and April 2009... and way back in 1996. And you might not have heard that nuclear overtook renewables in 1998... and May 2009, December 2009, July 2010 and December 2010.

Truth is that nuclear and all renewables in total have been producing around the same amount of primary energy for the last two years. Nuclear plant operators schedule their maintenance outages for period of lower electricity demand so nuclear generation tends to be lower in winter and higher in summer. The largest form of renewable generation, hydro, shows quite a variability too, oscilating between 0.17 and 0.28 quadrillion Btus each month. With this variability the total renewable energy production and nuclear energy production have been moving ahead and then back behind for the last few years.

 Energy US 2009 to 2011 

Looking further in the past, this isn't the first time nuclear and renewables have generated similar amounts of energy. Renewables, in the form of hydro and biomasss, have been providing primary energy long before nuclear appeared on the scene. From its early beginnings in the late 1950s nuclear primary energy generation grew throughout the 70s and 80s until it first exceeded total renewable generation in 1990. For much of the 1990s nuclear and renewables produced similar amounts of primary energy, until the late 90s when improved operation of nuclear plant and a fall in biomass and particularly hydro meant renewables fell behind nuclear, a situation from which they have only just recovered.

 Energy US 1995 to 2011 

It is interesting, looking at the chart above, to note what has lead to renewables once again overtaking nuclear. The most dramatic change in the increase in use of biomass. Historically much of what is termed biomass is wood burnt for heat, but in recent years the use of biofuels in transport has driven much of the growth in this sector. Finally, in the last five years there has been a marked increase in wind generation for electricity. However, wind generation still represents only 11% of all renewable primary energy supply - and nuclear generates eleven times more primary energy than wind.

The situation with biomass, where much of the primary energy use in in the transport sector or for heating, illustrates too that it could be seen that primary energy is not the best way to assess the state of nuclear and renewables. At present nuclear power is used almost exclusively for electricity production. Using the primary energy plots shown above can mask the impact of growth of, for example, biofuels for use in the transport sector where nuclear has no direct role (although electricity may of course be used for powering electric cars or trains, for example).

Plotting the evolution of different generation source for electricity production shows a rather different picture.

  US Electricity Generation Mix record 

For electricity generation all renewables combined (the black dotted line) lag far behind nuclear, and while there has been some growth in renewables generation in recent years (as there has for nuclear) the long term trend since 1973 shows only a very gradual increase.

The most notable change in the generation mix in recent years is the dramatic increase in use of natural gas, which has moved ahead of nuclear. There has been something of a fall in coal-fired generation in recent years, but for advocates of low carbon energy of any kind, whether nuclear or renewables, this increased share for fossil fuels should be a matter of concern. 

(All data from US Energy Information Administration

Bill Gates on the World Energy Crisis

(New Nuclear, Climate Change) Permanent link


Bill Gates addresses Fukushima first of all in a new interview in Wired. When asked about the impact of Fukushima Gates said "The environmental and human damage is clearly very negative, but if you compare that to the number of people that coal or natural gas have killed per kilowatt-hour generated, it’s way, way less. The nuclear industry has this amazing record, even equipment from generations one and two. But nuclear mishaps tend to come in these big events—Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, and now Fukushima—so it’s more visible. Coal and natural gas have much lower capital costs, and they tend to kill only a few at a time, which is highly preferred by politicians."

Gates is a little disingenuous to say there has been no innovation in the nuclear industry for the past few decades. The fundamentals of nuclear fission remain the same, but great progress has been made in plant design. Gates would be unlikely to say there hasn't been innovation in computing just because chips are still just circuits on silicon.

  

RSC hold Nuclear Debate

(Sustainable Development, Policy, Climate Change) Permanent link

 
The Royal Society of Chemistry in London is holding a nuclear debate that will feature the motion "New carbon targets requires reducing emissions of greenhouse gases by 50% for 2030. This house believes that it will be impossible to meet the emissions reductions required to fulfil these obligations without the use of nuclear power."

Speaking for the motion will be Malcolm Grimston and George Monbiot; against will be Greenpeace's chief scientist Doug Parr and "independent energy consultant" Roger Levett. Karl Rose of the World Energy Council will be presiding.

Already sold out the RSC's website says the debate will be broadcast live at 18:30 BST on Thursday 7 July.

New video from Brave New Climate and Decarbonise SA

(Sustainable Development, New Nuclear, Climate Change) Permanent link

Scientific American examination criticises Fukushima study

 Permanent link


A Scientific American examination has strongly criticised and provided evidence to disprove a study suggesting a significant increase in infant mortality in US northwest cities since the Fukushima accident.

The original study by Sherman and Mangano, reported by news organizations including Al Jazeera, claimed there had been a 35% increase in deaths of children under 1 year old in a range of cities in the Pacific Northwest since March 11, 2011. Sherman and Mangano used information published in the US Government Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). They plotted the number of reported deaths for infants under one year old in the cities of Seattle, Portland, Boise, San Francisco, Sacramento, San Jose, Santa Cruz and Berkeley. In Sherman and Mangano's brief note they reported that  in the four weeks ending March 19, 2011 in those eight cities there were 37 deaths (avg. 9.25 per week), whereas for the ten weeks ending May 28, 2011 there were 125 deaths, an average of 12.50 per week.

The apparent 35% increase in deaths was described by Sherman and Mangano as "statistically significant".

However, analysis by Michael Moyer, questions the Sherman and Mangano conclusion. The key issue highlighted was the fact that Sherman and Mangano presented data for the ten weeks after the Fukushima accident, but only the four weeks before the accident. This is a strange choice as CDC data is available for the last 15 years. Moyer repeated the same analysis, but this time included data for the ten weeks before the Fukushima accident, as well as the ten weeks after.

The full data for the ten weeks before the Fukushima accident showed 137 deaths for children under 1 year old, with 138 deaths for the ten weeks after, a statistically insignificant difference. The figures for the ten weeks after Fukushima are higher as they include additional deaths reported since the Sherman and Mangano study.

Moyer described the claims by Sherman and Mangano as "critically flawed—if not deliberate mistruths."

Fort Calhoun - a flood of rumours from an unreliable source

(Environment, Safety) Permanent link


The Fort Calhoun Nuclear Power Plant, near Omaha, Nebraska, is currently surrounded by flood water from the Missouri river. The reactor has remained in a cold shutdown situation since a planned refuelling outage, which started on April 9.

Although the photos look dramatic, the key areas of the plant are protected from the flood and the reactor and used fuel pond are in a stable condition. According to owner and operator Omaha Public Power District (OPPD) the plant will stay shut until the floods recede, which may be some weeks or months.

Separately, on June 7 there was a fire in an electrical switchboard that resulted in power to used fuel pools being cut, knocking out two pumps circulating water. In the 90 minutes before a back up pump was switched on the temperature in the pool rose a couple of degrees Celsius, however the temperature remained in the low 30s Celsius.

There is some understandable concern, but this concern is being raised unnecessarily by some highly inaccurate and speculative reporting. Much of this seems to reference a single report carried on Pakalert Press. This article links to its source - an author called Sorcha Faal on a website called whatdoesitmean.com. This website features a confused series of articles on various religions, global conspiracies and the apparent imminent end of the world. The Pakalert Press site itself carries a similar range of outlandish stories. The story carried on Pakalert Press has been posted verbatim on many other websites and the report is cited by other reports (e.g.) questioning what is happening at Fort Calhoun.

It seems incredible that so much of the rumours that have been circulating draw on on this highly dubious source. To try and address some of the claims in the article here are the facts on a number of the claims made in the article:

An INES Level 4 event has been declared at the plant.  

Incorrect. The Fort Calhoun stations declared a “Notification of Unusual Event”, the lowest of four emergency classifications on a scale used by the NRC. This NRC scale has no relation to INES. The notification related to the expectation the Missouri River was going to reach over 1004 feet about mean sea level.

A no-fly zone was imposed after the fire on 7 June to protect against leaking radiation 

Incorrect. There has been and there is not expected to be any release of radiation.

In a blog post the NRC says that OPPD contacted the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) requesting that the FAA remind pilots of the NOTAM (Notice to Airmen) restricting the airspace around all nuclear power plants since September 11, 2001. NOTAM is meant to discourage pilots from flying too low or lingering in airspaces.

The owner and operator Omaha Public Power District (OPPD) says that broader flight restrictions were set up by the FAA as a result of Missouri river flooding.

For further information on this point please see the comments below.

There was a catastrophic loss of cooling that risked a meltdown in the used fuel pool  

Incorrect. At the time power was lost it was estimated that the fuel pool would take 88 hours to heat to boiling. Backup systems were in place within 90 minutes. The temperature in the pool rose only a couple of degrees and stayed in the low 30s Celsius.

Note: some reports refer to temperatures in the pool being in the 80s. This is the temperature in Fahrenheit.

The plant operators have flooded the containment building to protect the reactor  

Incorrect. An advisory that had been sent by NRC to the Department of Homeland Security was similarly misinterpreted, leading to reports that operators had flooded the containment building to protect the reactor. The reactor core is currently filled with water as part of the cold shutdown of the plant.

Further Information  

http://www.oppd.com/AboutUs/22_007105 OPPD Flood Rumour Control

http://public-blog.nrc-gateway.gov/2011/06/17/rumors-and-the-rising-river/ US NRC  

Washington Post: Germany's blundering nuclear policy

(Policy, Climate Change) Permanent link


The Washington Post describes Germany's announcement that it will close all nuclear reactors by 2022 as a "panicked overreaction", noting that "Germany’s overreaching greens are showing the rest of the world just how difficult it is to contemplate big cuts in carbon emissions without keeping nuclear power on the table."

Germany's apparent reversal in policy is actually a lot less dramatic than that. Only last year a new agreement was struck to grant 8-year lifetime extensions to reactors built before 1980 and 14-year extensions to those plants built after that time. This latest change of policy essentially scraps that 2010 agreement and returns Germany to its previous policy, agreed in 2000 by the SDP and the Greens, then a minority coalition party.

Chancellor Merkel has announced that Germany intends to shift to greater reliance on renewables. Renewable generation is often a good thing in itself, it being essentially carbon-free like nuclear, but this shift in policy will only make it harder to develop renewables in Germany. Part of the 2010 agreement was a hefty nuclear tax where the government would take a big slice out of the nuclear generation profits and invest that money in renewables. With those lifetime extensions cancelled it isn't surprising that some utilities are already calling for that tax to be scrapped. With nuclear plant lifetimes curtailed the potential revenue from that tax is already diminished.

Secondly it will take a massive expansion of renewables to make up what will be lost by scrapping nuclear, more than 42% of generation will be required from renewables by 2020 according to the Washington Post article. Replacing one low carbon generation technology with another will not save a puff of carbon dioxide. Meanwhile, as German reactor close down it is expected that this will lead to the emission of 400 million tonnes of carbon dioxide over the next decade.

This assumes Germany can reach its goals on renewables. Already protests are being made objecting to the pylons and power lines expected to be needed to bring electricity from wind turbines in the north of Germany to the industrialised south. Given how quick German politicians have been been to bow to nuclear protests can any investor in turbines or power lines be confident a similar policy change won't happen for them?

Mark Lynas says ditch the anti-nuclear quackery

(Environment, Policy) Permanent link


In his latest blog entry, Mark Lynas criticises those who attack nuclear energy with "no regard for proper scientific process" and draws comparisons to anti-science climate change 'deniers'. Lynas is particularly critical of Dr Chris Busby and the Green Party for allowing Busby's line to dominate its thinking, saying that this is comparible to the UK Independence Party "getting its climate change science from Lord Monkton".

Lynas raises questions about Busby's Green Audit organization, suggesting it thrives on "distrust of both the nuclear industry and official health protection and regulatory agencies, allowing them to invoke shadowy conspiracies by men in white lab coats who presumably enjoy foisting dangerous radioactive materials on an unwilling public, all no doubt controlled by a sinister mastermind."



 

What are the effects of radiation?

(Safety) Permanent link


With the situation at Fukushima Daiichi stil serious and concerns being raised by the emissions of radioacitve isotopes to the air and sea the article "The dangers of nuclear power in the light of Fukushima", written jointly by Mark Lynas and Chris Goodall is particularly welcome.

The article looks at the evidence available for the effects of high levels of radiation in the short and long term, and the effects of lower levels of radiation (but still above the average background) over the long term.

The authors make the point that misinformation about exaggerated dangers of radiation is actually likely to be harmful to large numbers of people. They hope that a more rational sense of risk and an appreciation of what we have learned from past experience will prevent the repeat of this experience after Fukushima.

Japanese earthquake information

(Safety) Permanent link

WNN and WNA are providing information the situation regarding the recent earthquake and the affect it has had on nuclear power plants in Japan, particularly the Fukushima Daiichi plant.

An archive of WNN articles and links to relevant WNA information papers is stored on the following page.

Tohoku-Chihou-Taiheiyo-Oki Earthquake and Nuclear Power 

Reactors shutdown as designed after new, larger Japanese earthquake

(Safety) Permanent link

 

A number of nuclear power plants in Japan have automatically shut down as planned, folllowing a very powerful earthquake at 2:46 pm local time. Other reactors are continuing to operate normally.

More information is available from World Nuclear News.

Regretably there has been widespread damange elwhere and fatalities have been reported. Train and subway services have been suspended. An oil refinery in Chiba Prefecture is on fire.

 
Nuclear power plants in Japan 

Nuclear plants operating normally after Japanese quake

(Safety) Permanent link


Japanese utilities Tohoku and Tepco have said that the strong earthquake that hit Japan today has not affected the operation of their nuclear power plants, according to a Reuters report.

Thankfully there have been no reported significant injuries or damage to buildings as a result of the earthquake.

 
Location of Tohoku and Tepco NPPs 

Japanese nuclear power plants are built to withstand seismic events. As WNN reported in 2009, earthquake regulations were revised after the Niigata-Chetsu offshore earthquake which hit the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in July 2007. The seven reactors at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa all stayed safe during the earthquake, but its strength came as a surprise to seismologists and led to a simplification and strengthening of requirements for nuclear plants.

More details on this issue can be found in our Nuclear Power Plants and Earthquakes info paper.

Solar CEO says renewables and nuclear are not rivals

(Policy, Climate Change) Permanent link

Solsonica Solar Panels  
Paolo Mutti, CEO of Solsonica, an Italian photovoltaic company, has said that the characteristics of nuclear and solar are 'highly synergistic and complementary'. Speaking in the Milano Finanza newspaper, Mutti said that energy choices should select the most appropriate mix to reduce dependence on fossil fuels. As reported by  the Italian Nuclear News website, Mutti said that nuclear power plants had low costs of generation and were suited to supplying baseload power, where as solar systems work during periods of peak electricity consumption. 

Mutti called for more investment in nuclear research and incentives to support photovoltaics. 

Will Switzerland's nuclear and hydro power remain Europe's 'battery'

(New Nuclear, Environment) Permanent link

Switzerland will need to replace its existing nuclear power plants with new reactors if it is to maintain its key role in helping cope with Europe's varying electricity supply and demand. Bloomberg's article describes Switzerland as Europe's battery.

Electricity generation in Switzerland is currently dominated by hydropower and nuclear, in a mix that highlights how nuclear and renewables can work together to provide a very low carbon electricity supply. Nuclear energy supplies 40% of Swiss electricity as a reliable baseload, while hydropower is used to meet peaking demand, with the excess hydro generation being exported. Switzerland has by far the lowest carbon dioxide emissions per unit GDP of any developed nation.

 
Location of Nuclear Power Plants in Switzerland 

Switzerland's role in helping to smooth European electricity supplies is becoming ever-more important, as increasing generation from intermittent wind need back-up power. However, unless new nuclear plants are built to replace the current generation, which are currently due to be closed down in the 2020s, Switzerland will face an energy gap and will require more of its hydro generation to itself.

As WNN reported last month, residents in the the canton of Bern voted in favour of a new nuclear power plant at Mühleberg in a local referendum. However, further referenda will take place before any new build project starts.