(by Paolo Fornaciari)
Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends,
It is a great honour and pleasure for me to be here, and share with you all, some thoughts and considerations about the present status and future perspectives of nuclear energy today.
Since many years, at least 15 in our country (Italy), we have not debated about energy policy and nuclear energy in particular. Nevertheless energy is the driving force and the prime motor of the economic and social development of every country and of the world economy as a whole.
Throughout our century, the World population has increased 5 times, and it could reach 10 billions before the year 2050. Over the same time span the world energy requirement has increased 10 times as much with a noticeable improvement in the average standard of living.
However, energy consumption is not uniformly distributed throughout the Planet: one fifth of the world population consumes more than 80% of the total, while some developing Countries have a pro capita energy consumption rate one order of magnitude lower than that of the major consuming countries. Two billion people do not have access to any form of commercial energy. One billion do not even have drinkable water or electricity available yet and, with a very low energy consumption, human lifetime becomes shorter and the infant mortality rate increases.
The world will need energy, a lot of energy in the next decades. According the World Energy Council (WEC), the world energy demand will increase by 40 to 50% in the next 20 years and the electricity consumption even more. All the presently known energy sources shall be used and in particular nuclear energy since it is abundant, cheap and carbon free and it shall not be abandoned for any arbitrary political reasons.
We are not in front of an exhaustion of the world energy resources however, like the Rome Club was announcing, thirty years ago, with its famous best seller "The limits to growth".
Zaki Yamani, the powerful Saudi Arabia Minister for oil and mineral resources in the 60s and in 70s, used to say : "The stone age did not finish for lack of stones. So the oil Era will not be over for lack of oil " The world oil reserves are not to soon to be exhausted, at least for the moment. What we should realize pretty soon is that the era with abundance of cheap oil, to which all the industrial nations have been accustomed, is over.
According to the IEA Report "World Energy Outlook" issued November 1998, before the last oil crisis, with a total world energy demand in the next 20 years 40 to 50% higher as compared with todays levels, fossil fuels will still be the prevailing energy sources: with oil at about 40%, coal and nuclear slightly declining and natural gas - the rising star in the world energy portfolio - rapidly expanding, only a very unlikely doubling (from 28 to 60 or 65 Mb/day) in the OPEC (Oil Producer and Exporting Countries) oil production, could match the future World oil demand.
All the Western oil reserves are in fact at their maximum
production or even declining.
In this hypothesis, it will be very hard to keep the oil price below 21$/b until 2010 and at 28$/b in 2020, as envisaged in the IEA Report.
It is worthwhile to remember that Campbell and Laherrère in their study "The end of oil at low price" ("Le Scienze", May 1998) wrote : " We are not experiencing the exhaustion of the oil world reserves, but the end of an era at low oil prices".
The abundance of world energy reserves, the low energy prices, the great hope and trust in the free market, liberalization, privatization and competition, have led in the past years to a great energy optimism.
The world major oil analysts and experts like Neil Atkinson, Peter Davies, Robert Mabro and Peter Odell, had envisaged only three years ago a "New Era" with low oil prices, and Zaki Yamani the loss of OPEC power. From the end of 1997 up to April 1999 the OPEC oil producers have lost more than 100 billions dollars of income, because of the low oil prices.
It has been sufficient however, that the "Ten Brothers", the Arab Sheiks with the support and complicity of the biggest international oil companies, the "Seven Sisters" as Enrico Mattei used to call them, found cohesion and unity of action, such that the oil reduction of about 4.3 Mb/day announced in March 1999 and obstinately respected thereafter, generated in a few months an oil price skyrocketing from 8 to 36 $/b.
But then some extraordinary and unpredictable events took place.
The heavy oil crisis in 1999/2000, neither the "climate war" between Europe and the USA were not sufficient to convince the American President George W. Bush to ratify the Kyoto Treaty.
The unbelievable energy crisis in California, an incredible event for a State since several decades at the forefront of Science and Technology, has forced the United States in restarting, after twenty years, a large power programme for electricity generation.
President USA George W. Bush announced at the Convention Centre in St. Paul, Minnesota, on May the 17th 2001, the new US National Energy Plan, prepared within the six weeks time allowed to the Task Force headed by Vice President Richard Cheney.
A Plan based on the so called "supply side" energy policy, with the construction in the next 20 years of 1300, or perhaps 1900, new electric coal and nuclear power plants.
Immediate consensus has been given by the UK Premier Tony Blair.
An energy policy based on coal and nuclear is not however an invention of the american President Bush or of the UK Premier Tony Blair, but has been proposed ever since the long term energy policy was considered by the Fathers of the European Community, so was called it at that time, with CECA and EURATOM fifty years ago.
In Europe instead, the energy policy outlined in the Green Paper issued by the EU Commission at the end of 2000, worried for the future dependance, is based on "energy demand control", even with taxation, energy saving and higher efficiency, market competition, new renewable energies, - those that the US Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham, because of their high price and intermittent nature, with amusing expression calls : "the undiscovered energy sources" - and natural gas imported from Siberia.
Although the new GCC power stations have higher efficiency, 50% more as compared with the old thermal power plants, meanwhile the natural gas price has increased three-fold in Europe, and even four in California !
These two energy policies are quite different.
What about Italy ?
In our country instead, it has been stated that "Italy has phased out" from nuclear because of a public referendum. This is not true. The article 75 of our Constitution forbids in fact abrogative referenda on fiscal laws and on ratification of Community rules, while Italy 30 years before, with the Rome Acts, had taken the solemn engagement to "develop a powerful nuclear industry". Some had said that other Nations will follow our choice, which is also untrue. I do not think that Sweden or Germany will, because they will not be able to assure, without nuclear energy, the present level of life they have reached in their countries.
The energy sector in Italy, since several years, has been characterized by an excessive hydrocarbon dependence in power generation. While in EU electric energy is produced with nuclear (36%) and coal (30%), in Italy oil and gas cover more than 70%. As a consequence, we have the highest electricity bills in Europe, twice than in France and three times more than in Sweden.
In addition, we cannot continue to burn fossil fuels and release billions of tonnes of noxious anthropogenic gases into the atmosphere without problems.
John B. Ritch II, former USA Ambassador at the International Organization in Vienna, today General Secretary of the new "World Nuclear Association", said (in March 1999) "The reality is that, of all energy forms capable of meeting the world's expanding needs, nuclear power yields the least and most easily managed waste."
Since then many message and statements in favour of nuclear energy have been
Dr. El Baraday, intervening , March 8th 2000, at the International Conference on "Energy and Environment " organized in Rome by the National Lincei Academy has affirmed: "Nor is cheap and competitive nuclear power going to be enough Without public confidence, a plant that is both safe and profitable will still face a doubtful future".
Romano Prodi, President of the European Commission has written an article published by the italian magazine "Energia"(September 2000) : "The question of electricity generation with nuclear power plants, requires to be carefully re-examined".
Finally we have to mention that.
A general trust and belief is commonly accepted in Europe on the benefits obtainable through market liberalisation and privatization of the energy sector. There is a great hope in our Country as well, that the completion of the liberalisation and privatization process in the energy sector could reduce the energy bills.
This is however very unlikely to happen.
But what a strange market, when just a few countries hold three quarter of the world oil and natural gas reserves, and they act more as a blind trust than as competitors, and with the complicity of the biggest international oil companies, decide together of the oil barrel price by changeing their production rate ? A 15% reduction in the OPEC oil production decided in 1999 generated a revenue increase in 2000 by more than 50%.
What energy market can exist when, as is the case in Italy, the electricity generation depends for 80% on fossile fuels (hydrocarbon), subjected to a Trust, and not to a free market ? It does not make any difference whether the owner of the Italian electric companies is a public monopoly or a private company.
A good energy policy does not depend from the ownership, but from the quality of the management and decisions. A public monopoly, being well operated, can be as efficient as a private company, while a private company is rarely worried about a long term vision.
The last WEC Congress held in Buenos Aires on October 20 to 25th 2001 has stated : "the free market is an essential mechanism to promote efficiency and competition in the energy sector, but the market by itself it is not sufficient. To assure the economic development, it is important that Governments have a role in energy policy, strategies and in system control and regulation".
Energy is a very peculiar good : it needs to be generated at the same time as it is requested, it can not be easily stored and requires a long term planning, because the infrastructures for generation, transport and distribution need several years to be constructed.
Today I will be glad to talk to you about what happened last year and really looks like a "true renaissance in nuclear energy".
Let me remember some important international Conferences which recently took place :
August 29th, "Nuclear Technology Review &endash; Update 2001, IAEA Vienna, Austria.
September 6 and 7th, World Nuclear Association Annual Symposium, London, UK.
September 29th, "Enrico Fermi and the Universe of Physics", Rome, Italy.
October 15 and 16th, Enrico Fermi and Nuclear Energy, Pisa, Italy.
October 20/25th, 18th World Energy Council Congress, Buenos Aires, Argentina.
New facts did happen last year. Let me mention a few.
January, 11 2001 : Lester Turow, the MIT famous economist and Nobel Prize winner has recently written on USA Today : "In the case of electricity, we already have a technical solution at hand. It is called nuclear power -- a clean way to generate electricity that does not cause global warming. The Green should admit they have been wrong".
Loyola De Palacio, EU Energy Commissioner and vice-President of the European Commission, underlined the key role of nuclear power both in combating climate change and in securing energy supplies saying: " It would be imprudent to renounce nuclear energy. Without nuclear Europe would not be capable to comply with the Kyoto Protocol requirements".
February 2001 : In Switzerland, the Government rejected any limits to the operating lifetimes of existing nuclear plants.
March 2001 : Richard Cheney, US Vice President on national TV said : "The time has come to re-examine the benefits of nuclear, the only solution to the Californian energy crisis".
April 2001 : Euroelectric, a European Trade Association, issued a Report blaming the California crisis on a "poor fuel mix that places too much reliance on gas-fired plant". It confidently assured readers that a similar crisis "could not happen in EU" .
May 17th, 2001 : USA President George W. Bush announced in St Paul, Minnesota the US will to expand the use of nuclear power and unveiled a long awaited national energy policy report (NEPD).
June 2001 : A key EU advisory group said "it was difficult to see how Europe could both tackle climate change and ensure energy supplies at reasonable prices without the continued use of nuclear". Analogous statement had been made two years before by Bertrand Barré from Cogéma at the WEC Energy Forum "Western Europe without nuclear energy?", held in Zurich, Switzerland on June 6 and 7 1999. "Yes, We can. Western Europe is wealthy enough to afford &endash; like the USA do &endash; buying hydrocarbons even when their prices soar. Too bad for the developing countries. Too bad also for our grandchildren. I do not consider it a desirable future".
July : The European Commission officially confirmed the findings of a previous major research study (ExternE), which confirmed that the external costs of nuclear power are far lower than those for fossil fuels and even lower than those of renewable energies, except wind energy, which are more or less similar. Loyola De Palacio said any move to phase out nuclear without explaining the corresponding loss in benefits would be "irresponsible", she declared.
August 2001 : One of Germanys leading power company executives, Walter Hohlefelder of Eon, told a meeting in Switzerland that " a nuclear renaissance in Europe &endash; including Germany &endash; was now a distinct possibility".
September 2001 : Britain has joined a major global project organized by the US Government to build nuclear power stations. Nine Governments, which include Canada, Japan, Brazil, South Africa, France. Korea and Argentina, signed a Charter, "the nuclear pact" on September 16th, in Paris. The project, called the Generation IV International Forum, states : "nuclear power will play a major part in meeting future global energy needs as fossil fuel use is heavily cut under the Kyoto Treaty on climate change". BNFL and British Energy announced they were now actively exploring plans to build a new generation of British nuclear plants.
October 2001 : Spencer Abraham, US Energy Secretary, said 11th September had brought Americans "face to face with our energy history" and vowed that ensuring security of supply would now be his number one policy priority. A public opinion poll carried out one month after the attacks found that a record number of Americans favoured the use of nuclear energy and considered nuclear power plants safe.
November 2001 : The European Parliament approved a resolution underlining the need to keep nuclear power at the heart of Europes energy mix.
December 2001 : Brazils national Council for energy policy (CNPE) gave the go-ahead for a study that could lead to completion of a third unit at the Angra nuclear power plant site.
January 2002 : The Finnish Government, with 10 votes in favour against 6 against, has approved on January 17th, the construction of the fifth nuclear plant in Finland.
Recently, some doubts had arisen in Italy about the real benefits obtainable with the liberalisation and privatisation of the energy sector. Such doubts were expressed for example by Alberto Clo in an article titled "The Great Energy Groups in Italy between past, present and future" published in the Italian magazine "Energia" (4/2001). Similar considerations were contained in the interview given by the Italian Economy Deputy Minister Mario Baldassarri to the Italian newspaper "Il Sole-24 Ore" (6.1.2002).
Then finally the Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi in the occasion of the press conference at the end of the year, in Rome December 21st 2001, has made some important statements on the Italian energy policy with authoritativeness and determination: "The Government wants to change Italy, wants to change the Nation. We shall modernize the State, give more efficiency, higher competition to our economy, more public service at a lower cost than today. For Enel and ENI we shall wait the suitable time. It is not thinkable for the Government to abandon the energy sector, when the energy supply security is so important for the Nation and our energy bills are the highest in Europe. He announced that a new energy plan is being studied, since Italy aims to improve its energy independence.
From Spain, the Enels CEO Franco Tatò has subsequently affirmed that "It has been a big mistake to phase out from nuclear energy".
In 15 years from now, we shall be glad and proud of this historical U turn !
At the threshold of the third Millennium, population growth and world energy needs are offering to the humanity the luxury of a choice:
The alternate is either to continue with the past energy policy based on burning fossile fuels, and maintaining the existing economical gap between a rich and thriving North and an always under development South, within the frame of a "new energetic colonialism" or to favour a better standard of living in the Developing Countries also, leaving them sufficient quantities of the energy sources easiest to use.
"Leave the oil to the Third World Countries" suggested the French President Mitterand at the 1986 WEC Congress in Cannes - and let us engage the industrial nations on clean energy alternatives, like nuclear.
We should be aware that leaving aside nuclear energy could lead to a substantial increase in greenhouse gas emissions, higher oil and gas costs, widening the economic gap in living standards between rich and poor Nations, risk of local conflicts, epochal migrations and threat of catastrophic environmental events.
The second alternate instead would lead to a sufficient energy supply to all the Nations, mainly with nuclear in the industrial countries and with fossil fuels for the Developing Countries, avoiding tensions on oil and gas prices while promoting a sustainable and solid development in peace, equity and improving the quality of life for everyone. Energy it is not really an economic or technical problem only, but essentially an ethic one.
To achieve this second objective, a great unprecedented international effort is needed.
To achieve this objective a great unprecedented international effort is needed.
The only available mean to significantly meet future world energy needs, while avoiding the pollution problems is to expand the use of nuclear energy. Nuclear energy is and will remain in the years ahead the only way to supply large amounts of electricity to industrial nations, when it is needed, and at lowest cost as compared with oil and gas (Economy), while successfully addressing global warming (Environment) and, last but not least, avoiding tensions on oil and natural gas markets, leaving to the Developing Countries these energy sources (Ethics), at reasonable prices, more easy for them to use.
Nuclear energy is the only ready available, abundant, cheap, safe when adequately managed and operated, environmentally benign energy source, being "carbon free", capable to supply sufficient energy for a Worlds bright future. We will call it the Nuclear Marshall Plan for the 21st century.
Fifty years ago the Marshall Plan, after World War II, allowed Europe to be rebuilt.
Today European Union together with the USA and other Industrial Nations, having the technical and financial means to do so, have to make the correct choices, for achieving a sustainable social and economic development in peace and solidarity. There will be an occasion to do so and to have the pride and the honour to promote at the imminent WEC Congress in Buenos Aires, a massive nuclear power programme as has been suggested at the last WEC Houston Congress in 1998.
Rome, January 20th 2002
There is a great hope in Italy that the completion of the liberalisation and privatization process in energy sector could lead to lower energy bills. This is very unlikely to happen, especially in the medium and long term, because of the very high dependance of todays italian electricity production on expensive fossile fuels, 1/ whose price is controlled not by free market, but by OPEC, and 2/ prices are doomed to increase because of the limited reserves exploitable at low prices.
Energy is and always has been of vital importance for the social and economic development of human beings and for the improved quality of their life. Throughout our century, the world population has increased 5 times (and could reach 10 billion inhabitants before the year 2050). Over the same time span the world energy consumption has increased 10-fold, with a noticeable improvement in the average standard of living.
Energy consumption is not uniformly distributed however throughout the Planet: one fifth of the world population consumes more than 80% of the energy, while some developing countries have a pro capita energy consumption rate one order of magnitude lower than that of the major consuming countries.
Two billions people do not have access to any form of commercial energy. One billion do not have drinkable water or electricity available yet and at a very low energy consumption rate, human lifetime is shortened and the infant mortality rate increases.
It is not really only an economic or energetic problem, but essentially an ethical one.
"Nuclear power is of fundamental importance because it is the only energy supply which already has a very large and well-diversified resource (potentially unlimited resource if breeders are used), it is quasi-indigenous, and it does not emit greenhouse gases.
The World will need energy, a lot of energy, in the next decades. According the World Energy Council (WEC), the World energy demand will increase by 40 to 50% in the next 20 years and the electricity consumption even more. All the presently known energy sources shall be used and in particular nuclear energy, since it is competitive and carbon free, and should not be abandoned for arbitrary political reasons.
There is just one single answer : a great development and return of nuclear energy !
A "nuclear Renaissance" as has been said.
At the threshold of the third Millennium, population growth and world energy needs are offering to the humanity the luxury of a choice:
The alternate is either to continue with the past energy policy based on burning fossile fuels and maintaining the existing economical gap between a rich and thriving North and an always under development South, within the frame of a new "energetic colonialism" or to favour the growth of the standard of living in the Developing Countries also, leaving them sufficient quantities of the energy sources more easy to use, and to engage the Industrial Nations on clean energy alternatives, like nuclear.
To achieve this objective a great unprecedented international effort is needed.
The only available mean to significantly meet future world energy needs, while avoiding the pollution problems, is to expand the use of nuclear energy. Nuclear energy is and will remain in the years ahead the only way to supply large amounts of electricity in the Industrial Nations, at low cost as compared with oil and gas (Economy), face the global warming (Environment) and last but not least, avoid tensions (Ethics) on oil and natural gas markets, leaving to the Developing Countries the energy sources, at reasonable prices, more easy for them to use.
Nuclear energy is the only ready, available, abundant, cheap, safe when adequately managed and operated, environmentally benign energy source, "carbon free", and capable to supply sufficient energy for a Worlds bright future.
Fifty years ago the Marshall Plan, after the World War II allowed Europe to be rebuilt. Today European Union together with the USA and other industrial nations, having the technical and financial capabilities, have the pride and the honour to promote at the imminent WEC Congress in Buenos Aires, a massive nuclear power programme as has been suggested at the last WEC Congress in Houston in 1998, for achieving a sustainable social and economic development in peace and solidarity.
What the world needs today is a Nuclear Marshall Plan for the 21st century.
This would be the best way to celebrate our great scientist and Nobel Prize Winner Enrico Fermi.