Opponents of nuclear energy are due to hold demonstrations in the United States and 11 European countries this weekend (June 2 - 3)--most of them at the sites of nuclear plants.
Opponents of nuclear energy are due to hold demonstrations in the United States and 11 European countries this weekend (June 2 - 3)--most of them at the sites of nuclear plants. In many parts of the western world, the nuclear industry appears to be slowing down. Plans are being delayed, programmes cut and profits are not being made. In the wake of accidents, like the one last month at the Three Mile Island nuclear plant, in the United States, the nuclear industry seems to be treading carefully, in the face of public disquiet.
SYNOPSIS: Neon lights in Chicago ... a sight common to almost all of the industrially advanced western countries ... and an indication of the huge amounts of energy needed to keep consumers satisfied. With demand for energy growing rapidly, fossil fuels like coal and oil are becoming more expensive as supplies are used up. Some experts forecast oil production will cease by the year 2030. Coal is then expected to fill the energy gap ... the experts say there is about five times more coal energy than there is oil energy.
In the early days of nuclear power ... soon after the Second World War ... there was confidence that a nuclear age would soon arrive. Apart from power stations, scientists talked of using the new energy source in many ways, including driving aircraft, locomotives and trucks.
But economies of scale and safety reasons have dictated that nuclear energy must be harnessed in central power stations. So far, at least 22 countries have built electricity producing reactors. this one is in Argentina - Latin America's first. The country is going ahead with a plan that aims to have six atomic plants by the end of the century, with officials there apparently confident of the industry's safety.
But there is a growing lobby, made up largely of environmentalists, who view nuclear energy with suspicion, and forecast an eventual disaster. There've been many demonstrations, some resulting in violence. This one, in 1977 near the site of a French reactor at Creys-Malville, resulted in the death of one demonstrator. In Sweden, the anti-nuclear campaign brought down the government ... in West Germany it has resulted in a halt to the expansion of the nuclear industry.
Many countries, especially those lacking their own energy resources, have become more heavily dependent on nuclear power. Belgium and France expect to generate half their electricity from nuclear power by 1985. The United States, has by far the largest nuclear industry, with 72 completed plants. Fourteen percent of its generating capacity comes from nuclear power. But over the past five years, the American industry has been hard hit. More than 30 contracts for nuclear plants have been cancelled, others postponed. The main reason is low economic growth, and the rising cost of construction. Today, about half of the cost of a plant goes towards making it safe. Despite stringent safeguards, recent accidents have raised the question - how safe are the plants, especially when human factors are considered? Most companies and governments involved with nuclear power consider the dangers are small and that nuclear power is here to stay.