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Friday, 29 October 2010

Help Us Choose Our New Logo

To celebrate our two-year anniversary, we’re rebranding.  If you want to have your say on our new logo, go to http://sustainabilityconsult.posterous.com/help-choose-our-new-logo.



Thursday, 28 October 2010

The Myths Of Nuclear

Is nuclear power really an unlimited, cheap and safe energy source as often claimed by policymakers and the pro-nuclear lobby?  In a new book ‘Myths of Nuclear Power – A Guide’, the Heinrich Böll Stiftung has attempted to shed some light on the debate and to kill what they call the “myths” used to justify the ongoing use of nuclear power.

Despite recent claims of a “renaissance of nuclear power”, speakers at the book launch event in the European Parliament yesterday stressed that the number of nuclear power plants in use worldwide has steadily decreased since 2002.  Any reconstruction work taking place on existing plants since January 2008 has been mainly in China which has done 21 refits, Russia with six and Korea with three, and not in Europe and other Western countries.    

Speakers at the launch also contested the assumption that the second phase of third-generation nuclear power, otherwise known as ‘3G+’, would be cheaper than earlier generations.  They stressed that during 50 years of nuclear power energy production, nuclear power costs have not decreased.  In France, where 58 reactors have been constructed in the last 20 years, construction costs have tripled and energy capacity declined compared to the rest of the world, they claimed.

Speakers also presented arguments against 3G+ programmes as a guarantor of secure nuclear power-based energy generation, saying that nuclear power generation is especially unsafe in emerging countries.  For example, they said, only six of the 30 recently reconstructed power plants in China, Russia and Korea conform to EU and US safety requirements.

Clearly this is a controversial topic.  It can be argued that nuclear power is neither unlimited nor very cheap or safe.  However, large nuclear power plants are still generating a considerably greater quantity of energy than large renewable plants, agreed the speakers.  

However, speakers also claimed that if we see nuclear power as a bridging technology and not as an alternative to the full-scale use of renewables, we open the door for nuclear to keep putting pressure on renewables in a renewables market which is already under economic pressure.

Text: Filip Haugland
Image:  kyodonews.jp (Fukushima nuclear power plant)

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Is It Innovation vs Sustainability?

We have been working on innovation policy for several years and innovation is certainly the Brussels buzzword this year, particularly since the appointment of the new Research & Innovation Commissioner and the long-awaited launch last week of the Commission Innovation Union strategy, a strategy that was largely welcomed by industry and other stakeholders. 

At the Knowledge4Innovation 2nd Innovation Summit in Brussels today, the strategy was called “ambitious”, albeit with some cynicism, and the speed of change planned was described as “breathtaking”.  We also heard from the European Commission and Council that innovation should be considered in public procurement.  Public procurement represents 17% of EU GDP according to the speakers.  And this leaves me wondering how this ‘innovation-friendly public procurement’ will impact the ongoing discussion on green public procurement. 

Environmentally-sound purchasing and innovation-friendly procuring are not necessarily the same thing.  Or are they?  If the Innovation Union strategy is going to be the cornerstone of the Europe 2020 strategy as promised, then the focus on smart and green growth which guides the Europe 2020 should also carry across into the public procurement part. 

Are there innovative technologies which are not environmentally-sound?  Presumably.  Or there could be more sustainable technologies or products which are  not supported as they are seen as being less innovative.  How to reconcile sustainability and innovation?  It will be interesting to see how this debate develops.  It’s early days and the Council and Parliament haven’t had the chance to have their say on the proposal yet.  The whole Innovation Union strategy will be discussed in the first thematic European Council on Innovation in December.  So we’ll be watching closely to see how this develops.

Image: knowledge4innovation.eu