Europe's Nuclear Energy Woes

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Global interest in nuclear energy (over 200 projects currently are pending) has tripled the construction costs for plants over the last five years, according to figures from Lehman Brothers. Thatís come just as many workers in Europeís nuclear industry are thinking about retiring (consultancy Capgemini reckons the average age of employees now is around 45 years old) and energy companies are finding it hard to fill this knowledge-gap with graduates.

Rising energy costs and concerns over carbon dioxide emissions have focused minds in Europeís utility sector. The response? A push to build more nuclear power plants that would reduce the amount of fuel (such as natural gas and coal) thatís imported and cut CO2 just as governments start to take a hard-line stance towards greenhouse gases.

Yet there are problems with this plan. Global interest in nuclear energy (over 200 projects currently are pending) has tripled the construction costs for plants over the last five years, according to figures from Lehman Brothers. Thatís come just as many workers in Europeís nuclear industry are thinking about retiring (consultancy Capgemini reckons the average age of employees now is around 45 years old) and energy companies are finding it hard to fill this knowledge-gap with graduates.

All told, Europe (and the U.S, for that matter) could have trouble fulfilling the expectations of this so-called Ďnuclear renaissance.í

Speaking at a June 30 conference in London organized by BusinessWeek's sister company Platts, Vincent de Rivaz, chief executive officer of France's EDF, said the industry now faces "tough global competition," adding "some of the skills we need, such as nuclear engineers, are in short supply."

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