Some developments on nuclear energy from around the globe.
Putin’s Nuclear Push:
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin stressed the need for nuclear power in his country at a meeting in Elektrostal, outside of Moscow. Part of his plan is to dedicate $42 billion in public spending toward building Russia’s nuclear industry. The goal, according to Putin, is to build 26 new plants over the next dozen years — more than the entire Soviet period. It will be interesting to see the results of an overtly statist approach in an era of global competition and interdependence.
Recognizing that such an approach is not sustainable, Putin added that any construction after 2016 would not be financed by the government; it would be the responsibility of the private sector. We’ve said it a number of times here at Heritage: government dependence begets vulnerability that will lead to the same problems nuclear had in the past.
Japan’s Nukes and Hybrids:
Plug-in hybrid vehicles are often advertised as the green automobile of the future since they are powered by electricity (via rechargeable batteries). Many do not consider, however, where that electricity is generated. For instance, if the hybrid vehicle is charged by electricity that comes from a natural gas or coal plant, it’s simply transferring the pollution from one source to another. Howard Learner, executive director of the Environmental Law & Policy Center, a Chicago-based advocacy group said,
“Plug-in hybrids are perhaps not good for all areas. … [S]tates that are heavily coal, that equation doesn’t work out very well for the environment.”
Considering nearly half of America’s electricity comes from coal, simply going hybrid does little to achieve our environmental objectives. But if that electricity comes from a clean energy source, such as nuclear, hybrids may well be the perfect vehicles for us to cruise into a cleaner future. Japan is on the road to do just that. Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda is planning to increase nuclear by adding nine plants in nine years, quite impressive for a country that has 55 reactors providing about 30% of the country’s electricity.
Cost-competitive hybrids could be an attractive option for the short-distance commuter given their exceptional fuel efficiency standards; however, it is important to be aware of both the seen and the unseen environmental consequences. Sure, they may use less gasoline but a lot of energy goes into making the battery. And studies have shown that today’s hybrids just don’t last as long as traditional vehicles. That is not to say that they don’t have a future, it is just to recognize that for now, there needs to be a lot more research and development.