The move away from nuclear power in Europe is becoming a stampede. According to Reuters, the Belgians are now on the bandwagon, with plans for shutting down the country’s last reactors in 2025. The news comes as no surprise, as the anti-nukers in Belgium have had the upper hand for some time. However, the agreement reached by the country’s political parties has been made “conditional” on whether the energy deficit can be made up by renewable sources. Since Belgium currently gets about 55 percent of its power from nuclear, the chances of that appear slim. It’ s more likely that baseload power deficits will be made up with coal and gas plants that emit tons of carbon and, in the case of coal, represent a greater radioactive hazard than nuclear because of the uranium and thorium they spew into the atmosphere. No matter. Since Fukushima global warming hysteria is passé and anti-nuclear hysteria is back in fashion again for the professional saviors of the world.
It will be interesting to see how all this turns out in the long run. In the short term it will certainly be a boon to China and India. They will continue to expand their nuclear capacity and their lead in advanced nuclear technology, with a windfall of cheaper fuel thanks to Western anti-nuclear activism. By the time the Europeans come back to the real world and finally realize that renewables aren’t going to cover all their energy needs, they will likely be forced to fall back on increasingly expensive and heavily polluting fossil fuels. Germany is already building significant new coal-fired capacity.
Of course, we may be dealt a wild card if one of the longshot schemes for taming fusion on the cheap actually works. The odds look long at the moment, though. We’re hearing nothing but a stoney silence from the National Ignition Facility, which bodes ill for what seems to be the world’s last best hope to perfect inertial confinement fusion. Things don’t look much better at ITER, the flagship facility for magnetic fusion, the other mainstream approach. There are no plans to even fuel the facility before 2028.