It took the Fukushima disaster to put the future of nuclear power in doubt – but could renewable energy mean the end for nuclear power?
In March 2011, disaster struck Japan. An immensely powerful earthquake and tsunami resulted in a catastrophic meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. In the aftermath of the disaster, using atomic power to generate electricity came under intense scrutiny – resulting in both Japan and Germany deciding to phase out nuclear power.
With anti-nuclear sentiment strong in both countries, utility companies are coming under intense pressure, with profits being squeezed and their centralized business model facing an increasing challenge from renewables.
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"It's a complete destruction of the business model," Dieter Heuskel, a Dusseldorf based senior partner at the Boston Consulting Group, told CNBC's Energy Future. "They no longer run with the utilisation that they were planned to run, so there's a huge destruction of not only revenue but also of profit pools, and they have to reinvent themselves completely," he added.
Experts warn that the move to a focus on renewables could soon leave nuclear power redundant. "If you accelerate this revolution to a kind of power economy that is very different from what they [nuclear power utility companies] represent, well, you pull the rug even more out from under their feet," Andrew DeWit, from Rikkyo University, told Energy Future.
In April of this year, however, the Japanese government announced a reversal of its decision to phase out nuclear power, despite fierce public opposition.