Plan to use more nuclear power will meet practical obstacles

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 30 September, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 30 September, 2010, 12:00am

I agree with William Yu Yuen-ping of WWF-Hong Kong ('Reduce consumption before buying more nuclear power', September 25). He advocated stronger polices to reduce consumption of energy as an effective way to reduce carbon emissions.

I also agree that the Hong Kong government lacks determination and vision by relying heavily on nuclear energy.

I wish to point out some of the problems of nuclear energy besides safety and radioactive waste management.

It takes five to 10 years of planning, building and testing before a nuclear power station can be fully commissioned.

If the government expects nuclear supply to increase from 23 to 50 per cent within 10 years, a lot of nuclear plant projects must be started immediately. However, details of such plans are unclear. The capital costs for constructing a nuclear plant are enormous.

To plan for so many new power plants within a short period is not financially feasible. While nuclear energy in its purest sense is carbon emission-free, enormous amounts of hydrocarbon and electricity are required to enrich uranium to be ready for use in a nuclear power plant.

Toxic waste is produced during the enrichment process. The construction of the nuclear power station also produces a lot of greenhouse gas and pollutants. This hidden environmental impact of nuclear energy is often overlooked.

China produces only 2 per cent of the world's uranium, which is not enough to meet the increased demand for nuclear power. This could only mean more reliance on foreign import of resources.

The world uranium mining production rate has been in decline since the mid-2000s. It could be that the supply of uranium has already peaked.

Since it is not a renewable resource, investing heavily in nuclear power, given the uncertainty over future supplies of uranium, is unwise.

Sean Niem, Mid-Levels