News

Asia Goes Nuclear to Meet Rising Energy Demands

Multimedia

Audio

Asia's energy needs are soaring, and the region is increasingly turning to nuclear technology to meet the rising demand. Many governments see nuclear power as a way to cut air pollution and ease the need for imported oil.

In the face of rising oil prices and chronic air pollution, Asian nations are looking to nuclear power to solve their energy problems.

Reactors are being built across the region. Japan and South Korea have the most developed nuclear industries, but China and India are leading the charge with new projects.

John Ritch is the director general of the World Nuclear Association.

"The two largest nuclear planned programs in the world right now are those of India and China," he said. "I would expect that each of those countries, by the middle of this century, will have 250 nuclear power reactors. Now that sounds like a lot, but it won't be a very substantial portion of their electricity."

China alone plans to build 30 reactors by 2020, up from nine now. Eight of those are under construction, with two nearing completion. The reactors are part of an ambitious government effort to rapidly expand electricity output to keep up with its booming manufacturing industry.

China has been moving to alternative energy sources such as wind, hydroelectric and nuclear in an effort to cut its use of coal. Pollution from coal burning plants blankets most Chinese cities. And moving coal from the mines in the north and west to the industrialized east is straining the transportation system.

India has 15 reactors operating, and nine are under construction. Although nuclear power provides only about three percent of India's electricity, the World Nuclear Association estimates that could increase to 25 percent by mid-century.

Unlike China and India, which only recently began rushing to build reactors, Japan and South Korea have long relied on nuclear technology to reduce their need for foreign fuels.

Japan depends on imported oil, gas and coal for about 80 percent of its energy needs, which leaves its highly industrialized economy vulnerable to market fluctuations.

Nuclear reactors account for about a third of Japan's energy production, and the government says it plans to increase that to more than 40 percent by 2014, after adding more than 10 new reactors.

South Korea is even more dependent than Japan on imported fuel - as much as 97 percent of its fossil fuel supply is imported. South Korean government reports show 20 reactors provide 40 percent of electricity production, and at least eight new reactors are planned.

There are concerns, however, about this rush to go nuclear. Reactors present the risk of a radiation accident that could kill or sicken thousands of people. They also are expensive to build.

Liu Changxin of the China Nuclear Society says one of the main factors in China's nuclear plan is the need to reduce air pollution. Still, he says, it is only part of the solution.

"I don't think nuclear power can play the most important, or even a very important role in China's energy supply," he said. "Just a part of our energy policy, just one of the choices."

Liu says that China's energy needs are growing so rapidly that the country needs to consider all options.

Greenpeace wants to see countries such as China and India explore other choices. Szeping Lo, a Greenpeace spokesman in Hong Kong, says China has taken steps to develop renewable energy sources.

"Just last November the deputy minister of energy announced that China will increase its wind energy development target from 20 gigawatts to 30 gigawatts by 2020," he said.

That is almost the same amount of energy China plans to produce using nuclear power.

Lo opposes all uses of nuclear power because of the dangers and costs.

"The nuclear industry is a dying industry. No new nuclear power plant has been built in the U.S. in the last decade, and there's no new nuclear power plants being built either in Western Europe, in many other countries," Lo said.

John Ritch at the World Nuclear Association is frustrated by the opposition to nuclear technology. He says nuclear energy is clean and safe and should stand side by side with other clean energy technologies.

"The catastrophic effects of an intensifying concentration of greenhouse gasses are going to make the planet unlivable," he said. "And it is incumbent on the governments of Asia and the governments of other regions of the world to shift as quickly as possible to clean energy technologies, and nuclear is the quintessential clean energy technology that can be expanded on a large scale."

As the economies of Asia continue to grow, so will the energy needs. The Asia Development Bank says that from 1973 to 2003 Asia's energy consumption grew by 230 percent, compared with an average worldwide increase of 75 percent.

With much of Asia seeing economic growth rates above six percent over the past few years, electricity needs are likely to continue expanding rapidly. That means despite concerns over safety and cost, some of the region's smaller economies, including Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam, are looking to nuclear power to fuel their futures.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriagei
X
May 21, 2015 4:14 AM
The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.
Video

Video Women to March for Peace Between Koreas

Prominent female activists from around the world plan to march through the demilitarized zone dividing North and South Korea to call for peace between the two neighbors, divided for more than 60 years. The event, taking place May 24, marks the International Women's Day for Peace and Disarmament and has been approved by both Koreas. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug Use Rises in Afghanistan Following Record High Poppy Crops

Afghanistan has seen record high poppy crops during the last few years - and the result has been an alarming rise in illegal drug use and addiction in the war-torn country. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem has this report from Kabul.
Video

Video America’s Front Lawn Gets Overhaul

America’s front yard is getting a much-needed overhaul. Almost two kilometers of lawn stretch from the U.S. Capitol to the Washington Monument. But the expanse of grass known as the National Mall has taken a beating over the years. Now workers are in the middle of restoring the lush, green carpet that fronts some of Washington’s best-known sights. VOA’s Steve Baragona took a look.

VOA Blogs