Why is Al Jazeera worried that Asia is becoming “addicted” to nuclear energy?

A regular Atomic Insights reader sent me a link to a program produced by Al Jazeera English titled 101 East – Asia’s nuclear addiction that offers an interesting, if somewhat disturbing, point of view about nuclear energy development. About half of the program describes an effort to site a nuclear power plant in Indonesia and the other half features a debate between Helen Caldicott and a Malaysian nuclear engineer.

Someone recently asked me why Al Jazeera often produces shows that demonstrates discomfort with the use of nuclear energy. Her point was that Al Jazeera’s point of view did not not support my “advertiser supported media” theory that the media often slants against nuclear energy due to subtle pressure from petroleum company advertisers. That network does not depend on advertiser dollars.

My response was to point out that Al Jazeera has plenty of petrodollar reasons of its own to dislike the competition from nuclear energy against natural gas. The network is owned by the state of Qatar, which also happens to own Qatargas, the largest Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) producer in the world. Nuclear energy is a direct competitor to natural gas.

As reported by Bloomberg yesterday, one of the effects of the reaction to the Fukushima events has been a 33% increase in the world price of LNG, which is on a trajectory to exceed $20 per million BTU. That is more than 5 times the price per unit heat of natural gas at the wellhead in the United States. From the Bloomberg article (which is a must read) titled LNG Surges as Japan Vies With China, Exxon’s Shipments Grow:

“The Japanese tsunami certainly did increase the demand quite dramatically for LNG imports into the region, which effectively tightened the global LNG market more quickly than most people had anticipated,” said Allison Nathan, a senior commodities economist at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. in New York. “We now see the global market as tight.”

Supplies have become scarcer partly because Germany decided on March 15 to close eight of its 17 atomic stations following Fukushima. Qatar, the world’s biggest LNG producer, said Sept. 5 it will shut three of seven production lines for maintenance through October.

Can you see why I am firmly convinced that the seemingly irrational response to Fukushima in comparison to far more deadly recent fossil fuel accidents comes partly from pressure provided by the suppliers and traders? They are salivating at the prospects of accumulating additional wealth from all of the rest of us as a result of tighter energy supplies.

Is it really credible to consider the enormously positive effect of shutting down nuclear power plants on LNG and coal prices to be an “unintended consequence” of an almost non stop media blitz aimed at sustaining and expanding a carefully taught fear of nuclear fission energy production?

To directly answer the title question of this post, the reason that Al Jazeera and its sponsors are worried that Asia might be increasingly addicted to nuclear energy is that would mean that Asia is becoming less addicted to fossil fuel, specifically their world-leading LNG – liquified natural gas – product.

PS: Whenever I can, I will post videos that include Ms. Caldicott in debate against someone who knows something about nuclear energy. Every time she speaks, she provides evidence that many of the most prominent people who publicly battle the use of nuclear energy while claiming to be fighting against the dangers of coal mining and climate change are irrational nut cases.

About Rod Adams

11 Responses to “Why is Al Jazeera worried that Asia is becoming “addicted” to nuclear energy?”

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  1. I have found Prof. Rashid’s blog here:

    I am about to share a message of congratulations to him, for nicely managing the discussion with Caldicott and the host.

    Surely not a fair environment for the discussion, but as Rod says, he’s done well since he knows about nuclear, and surely Caldicott helped him with her paranoic and catastrophistic view of the modern world.

    And once again Caldicott used the NYAS story to support her story, she doesn’t really have much else to use, as well documented by George Monbiot:

    Luca Bertagnolio
    Futuro Nucleare
    Milan, Italy

  2. Murray Chapman says:

    Qatar is widely reported as considering building their own nuclear power plants to free up more oil and gas for export. I believe they’ve signed memorandums of understanding with both France and Russia about civil use of nuclear power.

  3. Robert Margolis says:

    I will be curious when Al Jazeera covers the Braka Units in the UAE. Maybe they will claim the region is less seismically active or that there are more technical experts due to the oil and chemical industry infrastructure?

  4. Curtis says:

    Two priceless quotes:

    “We are running out of oil world wide… but not for energy production” – Helen Caldicott.

    “You have lots of land! Just cut down your Palm Oil Trees destroying your forests” – Helen Caldicott

  5. Brian Mays says:

    Caldicott … just as nutty as ever.

    “Dammit, Jim! I’m a doctor, not an epidemiologist.”

    Why is it that nobody ever uses this line when debating that old bat?

    Her “I’m a doctor” crap is really annoying.

    • Curtis says:

      And why does no one ever ask for Proof of the millions of deformed children that she says exist. She must have pictures, lab reports, news clippings or something that can back up her claims.

  6. David says:

    Helen’s lack of perspective on the cities of Asia is stark. The population density and population growth is amazing. In Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam and others the growth of the population is about 2%per year. The need for electricity is amazing. The Philippines alone will need to add at least a Gigawatt of generation each year just to maintain the current per-capita level of use.

    I was especially struck by the statement of the fisherman that we will all die together. I have slept in villages like this and know something about the risks they take in their daily lives. They die from storms, from accidents, and from sickness. They die early, very short lives. My friends who live in these villages need power. When propane becomes expensive trees disappear to cook food. But they are easily frightened by radiation, and even cell towers are blocked by rebels who warn the locals they will die from the radiation coming from the cell towers.

    I spent a lot of time trying to calculate the use of solar, or wind energy in these areas. The cost of the equipment would not be paid for almost 20 years and this was at a per kwh rate of about 22 cents / kwh.

    The mini-hydro is a great device and I believe would contribute wonderfully to many villages. But locals and NGO’s are much better suited to build them than government agencies as the engineer pointed out. But these will not power the mega cities and people are moving into the cities in droves. Finally, when a drought comes these fail.

    Helen needs to spend some time in those fisher boats and try to live through a hurricane season on the beach when you cannot fish for weeks and there is no refrigeration to keep any food. Compared to the suffering and starvation that come there a small amount of radiation risk is nothing.

  7. Scott Day says:

    I love the bit including the friends of the earth. Particularly the part where he suggests the people will just have to leave the island and find a new career. Classic fear tactic, this is very clearly a biased piece – Rob thanks for brining to my attention the Qatar/LNG link with this channel.

    • Scott Day says:

      Rod – not Rob sorry I was all fired up while writing that post. Caldicott really gets me worked up.

  8. Rich says:

    These countries have found out that Nuclear power is cheap, so cheap that they make more money selling us oil than making electricity from it, even the cheapest bunker grade. Ft. Calhoun sells nuclear power generated electricity to Cargill, so they can make ethanol from corn, for about $0.03 per kWh. Of course there is a curtailment clause for times when residential users need it, but rarely used. And wind/solar power costs how much? And ethanol (anything) made from wind/solar power will cost how much more?
    Better yet, you can bet that half of the people working at a NPP in these foreign countries are not security guards, paid at union scale. That “imaginary” threat of a terrorist attack is adding a substantial amount to the cost of nuclear electricity in the US. The largest department at most US NPPs (single unit) is the security department.

  9. Paul says:

    “one of the effects of the reaction to the Fukushima events has been a 33% increase in the world price of LNG,”

    “Qatar, the world’s biggest LNG producer, said Sept. 5 it will shut three of seven production lines for maintenance through October.”

    Cash flow explains Qatar’s decision