War in the shadow of nuclear power plants. The conflict in Ukraine has shown why nuclear power has no future in Europe

2022 - 03 - 07
Image grab from a video released by Russian Defense Ministry on Saturday Feb 26, 2022 purportedly shows Russian soldiers guarding Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Pripyat,  Ukraine, after seizing the compound in the first day of invasion. Credit line: Profimedia

The ongoing war in Ukraine is changing the view on the European energy industry. A few initial days have already seen fighting in the vicinity of two nuclear power plants. Near the decommissioned nuclear power plant in Chernobyl, where the disaster in 1986 occurred, and near the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which is one of the largest in the world. The latter was even shelled by the Russian army during the fighting.

“Nuclear power in the current form does not represent a safe and stable energy resource for Europe. European countries should follow Germany’s example and adopt a schedule for departing from nuclear power within a several years’ time,” said Dalibor Dostal, director of the European Wildlife conservation organization.

The spread of the war conflict is not the only threat to nuclear power plants. Other threats include, for example, the risk of Islamic terrorism, which has been gaining strength in Europe in recent years. Natural disasters are another risk to nuclear power plants. One of them, a tsunami, caused a disaster in Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant in 2011. It was based on this tragedy that Germany decided to close down its nuclear power plants by 2022. “With climate changes there will be more and more weather extremes and natural disasters, that’s why it is necessary to switch over to safer energy resources,” Dalibor Dostal stated.

The climate threatens nuclear power plants for another reason as well. “These facilities need a huge amount of water, and there will be a shortage of it in many places due to climate changes. It is for this reason that nuclear power plants cannot be a way to solving the current climatic crisis,” Dalibor Dostal pointed out. For example, the Browns Ferry nuclear power plant in the US has been facing water shortages in recent years. According to an analysis by Standard & Poor’s, no less than half the nuclear power plants in the US may be dealing with water shortages within ten years.

According to him, Europe’s priority should be mainly solar energy, in conjunction with storing electricity into battery energy storage systems, and geothermal energy. On the contrary, Europe should not support controversial energy sources such as wind power plants, hydroelectric power plants and biomass combustion. Their adverse impacts on nature and the environment are too great.

Unlike nuclear energy, renewable resources are significantly cheaper. It is the too expensive construction and costly operation in particular that represent another major drawbacks for nuclear power in Europe.

According to the director of the European Wildlife conservation organisation, shutting down the present nuclear power plants would not mean that nuclear power has not future as a whole. “Scientists should focus on trends with good prospects such as the development of fusion reactors. They should be safe and, in particular, they should not generate any nuclear waste,” Dalibor Dostal concluded.

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