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Cyprus Internet Directory [ Energy chief calls for nuclear debate ]

Energy chief calls for nuclear debate

THE Energy Service is to prepare a study looking into the possible construction of a nuclear power station on the island.

Director Solon Kassinis yesterday told the Mail that using nuclear energy is a lot more acceptable now, following years of technological progress following the Chernobyl disaster in the former Soviet Union in 1986.

He added that the risk of a nuclear accident was very low.

“Safeguards are also in place to ensure that radioactive material does not fall into the wrong hands.”

Additionally, he stated that radioactive waste was now locked away underground in cement bunkers for around 200 years.

The issue of disposal methods for nuclear waste was one of the most pressing problems the international nuclear industry faced when trying to establish a long-term energy production plan, yet there was hope it could be safely solved.

According to Kassinis, even in areas susceptible to earthquakes, including Cyprus, construction can be such as to minimise danger, “as seen using the examples of Turkey and Japan”.

According to Alithia newspaper, companies interested in building a small nuclear reactor have already approached the Energy Service, which is part of the Commerce Ministry, and preliminary talks revealed that they are willing to build, operate and own a station at no cost to the government.

Kassinis said a nuclear power station in Cyprus would have as its main role the production of electricity, which it would sell to the government.

This would result in a consumer paying less than one cent per kilowatt as opposed to the current price of 15 cents.

He said that in France 85 per cent of electricity was produced by nuclear power stations.

“So many countries have nuclear power. Are they stupid? Of course not. The government has not yet taken a political decision but I urge everybody to study this issue seriously.”

A nuclear station can also help to reduce the cost of water through desalination, he added.

Kassinis could not give any time deadlines, location or cost, however.

“I’ve been working in the energy sector for 31 years and I’ve noticed that there has been a change of direction in the EU, with nuclear energy now a priority, unlike in the past when it was considered a taboo subject,” he said.

Cypriot MEP Marios Matsakis this week tabled the issue at the European Parliament, saying energy needs were increasing continuously.

“Most of such energy is derived from the use of fossil fuel, mainly oil, the price of which is escalating. Sustainable energy such as wind and solar-derived has strict limitations. A realistic option seems to be nuclear energy.”

He yesterday told the Mail that he was waiting for the Commission’s written response, “which I expect to be favourable”.

He added: “Nuclear energy is our only answer as fossil fuels are running out and renewables are not enough for our needs. Modern nuclear technology is absolutely safe and I think it is inevitable that it will happen, although this may be in a matter of decades.”

Environment Commissioner Charalambos Theopemptou disagreed strongly, however.

“What we should be doing is pushing forward with multiple installations of renewable energy facilities as soon as possible.”

According to the Commissioner, “it’s a myth that nuclear power is environmentally-friendly as stations emit huge amounts of heat. We should not be talking about this at a time when climate change is hitting the headlines.”

He also said that any station needs to be isolated from communities.

“What about the huge costs involved in handling nuclear waste and the logistics of transportation?” he wondered.

“A power station only has a life-span of between 30 and 40 years and I can tell you that Bulgaria, Slovakia and Lithuania have asked the EU for financial assistance to help close down their old stations.

“If it was so simple, every country would build a station.”

Theopemptou said that a nuclear power station would never be built on the island. “We are too small a country, as a lot of space is required, which we do not have, nor do we have the technical know-how.”

The Green Party yesterday issued a statement in which they said they have “grave concerns” over Kassinis’ statements.

Three weeks ago, the Party, along with Theopemptou, warned about the risks involved in the planned construction of five nuclear power stations and a nuclear technology centre in Turkey.

“The construction of a power plant at Akkuyu, in south-western Turkey, brings the nuclear nightmare to our doorstep,” the Greens said at the time. “The exceptionally dangerous seismogenic area of southern Asia Minor, the problem of safety and the lack of experience, make the plans for the construction of a nuclear power plant at Akkuyu the biggest threat to life and the safety of people in our area.”

(Source: Cyprus Mail)

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