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Network Europe

Published måndag 1 maj 2006 kl 05.30
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Europe's energy future: Stormy?
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Dolls scatter the floor of an abandoned kindergarten inside Chernobyls exclusion zone
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Inside the exclusion zone
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In the programme:

Europe stands at a crossroads as it attempts to get its energy policy for the future in order. Policy-makers worry over climate concerns and commitments to the Kyoto treaty. Experts urge more thought be given to energy.

Has the time comes again for Nuclear power? 20 years after Chernobyl and as North Sea oil reserves peak, Network Europe focuses on Europe’s energy dilemma and the apparent resurgence of nuclear power.


Europe’s Energy Dilemma

Anger over rising energy costs - both at the petrol pump and household power bills are pushing energy policy onto the agenda all over Europe. And its not just consumers - top international energy experts are urging European governments to put their house in order with respect to energy.

But Europeans have a dilemma: First, demand for power is on the increase across the continent. The EU currently imports some 50 % of its energy needs. According to some experts that level will rise to some 70% over the next 3 decades.

Second, there’s energy supply security. An escalation of violence in the middle east is pushing oil prices higher -  and Russia’s move earlier this year to shut off gas supplies to the Ukraine and Moldova after disagreement over pricing - has rattled just about everyone.

Then finally - as governments rush to secure supplies of fossil fuels - they are bound by the Kyoto treaty to reductions in the emissions of greenhouse gases.

The unsettling equation is bolstering the fortunes of nuclear power, which across Europe is now being reassessed as a future energy solution. Has Europe and the world put to rest the ghosts of Chernobyl?

Finland: Nuclear resurgence?

The fallout from the Chernobyl disaster was detected first in Sweden - where engineers first believed there was a leak at one of the country’s own reactors. Sweden had decided in a referendum in 1980 to phase out nuclear power - and the Nordic region has traditionally had a strong public lobby against nuclear power.

It is therefore is a sign of the times that  - the dilemma of how to lower greenhouse emissions and concerns over energy security has prompted a re-evaluation of nuclear power. While Sweden waits - one of the world’s largest nuclear power plants is already under construction in Finland, heralding what its supporters say, is a new dawn for nuclear power.

France: Europe’s nuclear power

If Finland represents Nuclear power’s comeback, there’s one country in Europe where nuclear power was never out of fashion - France. The country has been at the vanguard of civilian nuclear power for decades but now the pressing issue of where to put highly toxic nuclear waste is sparking debate. French geologists have studied the possibility of placing an underground repository below Bure, in the north-east of the country, a three hour drive from Paris. But locals are resisting the move.

Germany: The hunt for alternatives

Atomic energy has also sparked a heated debate in Germany. Europe’s largest economy is in the midst of reviewing its long-term energy policy, which even there could mean a renaissance of nuclear power. The Chancellor, Angela Merkel, says the main aim is to limit Germany’s dependence on imported supplies, to keep a lid on prices and to ”take into account the environmental challenges”. But the country’s renewable energy firms say the only answer for the environment and for Germany’s independence is power from the sun, the wind and ”biogas”.

Closing Music: “Jehovah Sunrise”, Soundtrack of our Lives

Our journalism is based on credibility and impartiality. Swedish Radio is independent and not affiliated to any political, religious, financial, public or private interests.
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