Geopolitical Intelligence Services (GIS) “Dossiers” aim to give readers a quick overview of key topics, regions or conflicts. This survey focuses on nuclear energy, which is increasingly becoming a critical factor in geopolitical decision-making for countries around the world. It is based on a selection of reports by Dr Carole Nakhle, CEO of Crystol Energy, and others.
After the 2011 Fukushima disaster, governments around the globe put the brakes on their nuclear energy programs. Some countries slowed or completely stopped producing energy from nuclear reactors, while others put the construction of nuclear power plants on hold. Most famously, Germany decided to phase out nuclear power altogether by 2022 as part of its Energiewende (“energy transition”) program. 2012 marked the biggest decline in nuclear energy ever.
However, as GIS expert Dr. Carole Nakhle wrote in 2014, nuclear power has entered a new phase. Most governments reversed course and began pushing ahead with new nuclear plans. In 2013, there were 31 countries producing nuclear energy, compared with 15 in 1973. Dr. Nakhle pointed out that nearly 70 power plants were planned to be built or already under construction.
“These developments are impressive and will make a positive contribution to the fight against climate change, as nuclear energy produces carbon-free electricity,” she wrote. “However, it might be too early to start celebrating the onset of the nuclear age.”
While nuclear accounted for nearly 12 percent of energy production by 2011, it made up only a small fraction of global primary energy consumption. Once up and running, nuclear power plants are price competitive with fossil fuel-fired facilities, and unlike renewable sources do not depend on the availability of sun, wind or water. But the long construction times, as well as the hefty construction and decommissioning costs complicate matters. For now, the pendulum swings from pronuclear to antinuclear sentiment in the public debate are set to continue.