Photo: Flickr Swobodin
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a fan of nuclear energy. I was able to get an inside look at the current state of the nuclear industry from a friend at Qualitech Solutions named Chris Sewell. Qualitech Solutions provides mission-critical software to many industries, including the energy industry. They have customers that are involved in nuclear utilities as well as design engineering firms working on major construction projects. Qualitech Solutions has been in business for more than a decade.I first wanted to talk about how the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant disaster in Japan that followed the earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011 affected the industry.
Sewell says, “There is a hesitancy to continue with nuclear construction projects amidst the public concern over nuclear safety. Society as a whole has become hypersensitive with anything pertaining to nuclear plant issues and safety. The Fukushima incident not only altered the social climate, but also affected the financial backing of various new construction projects. There is however, a general consensus that due to its low carbon imprint, nuclear energy must be part of our energy future.”
The general public fears nuclear energy. That is understandable considering the information that the public has been given. The catastrophes and the mistakes are front page news. But if the general public had more information about how the best nuclear plants are run, the opinion could turn. This is why I asked Sewell about the success of nuclear energy in France.
“The French generate approximately 80% of their energy using nuclear power. They have realised the long-term financial and environmental benefits to nuclear power and have continued supporting the industry and its growth within their country and abroad. AREVA, the French nuclear engineering firm, continues to work with partner companies to licence and construct new nuclear plants and fuel facilities, such as the uranium enrichment plant in Idaho.”
But in other countries, “nuclear plants are trying to get by with fewer people,” Sewell explained. However, the more safety mechanisms that are developed in the industry, the more financial support the nuclear energy industry will receive. One big safety development is in regard to the nuclear reactors themselves.
“The newest nuclear reactors (Generation IIIs) have additional layers of safety and technology to stave off a meltdown in the event of a power loss (as happened at Fukushima). The first of the Generation III reactors is due to come online in 2016 at The Vogtle Electric Generating Plant, located in Georgia,” said Sewell.
The more safety measures that are developed, the more proactive the nuclear energy industry can be in addressing problem areas before a catastrophe happens. I’m sure this won’t make everyone feel safe tonight though, will it?
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