After the nuclear catastrophe of Fukushima in 2011, the already decided nuclear phase-out was once again accelerated in Germany. In most other countries, however, the response was much less drastic. Experts do not expect that the share of nuclear energy in global electricity production will fall below the current 10.5 percent mark in the future. Rather, even a slight increase is expected. This development could now be accelerated by an announcement of the Russian atomic authority Rosatom. The engineers there want to bring so-called "fault-tolerant fuels" onto the market next year. The somewhat cumbersome name simply means that in the case of a meltdown, hydrogen should no longer be produced so that explosions can be ruled out.
A meltdown as in Fukushima should not be repeated
In order to understand the background of the new development, one should once again visualize the course of the Fukushima catastrophe. There, after an earthquake with subsequent tsunami, the cooling cold water supply could not be maintained. This resulted in overheating, which in turn caused hydrogen. This ultimately led to the fatal explosions that released radioactive material. The idea behind the "fault-tolerant fuel" is now to change the fuel material and the fuel rod shell so that no risk of explosion even with interrupted cooling. What sounds simple is not so easy to realize in practice. After all, not only is Rosatom researching in this direction, but also Western companies such as Westinghouse, General Electric and Framatome.
The repository problem persists
At this point, the skepticism of some experts is also ignited. For the Russian Atomic Energy Agency has begun relatively late with the research on "fault-tolerant fuel rods". Nonetheless, the engineers there want to launch a product much faster than their western counterparts. This currently assumes that it will not complete all necessary safety tests until 2025. It therefore remains to be seen whether Rosatom will actually be able to meet the ambitious schedule. However, a major problem of nuclear energy is not solved by the new development anyway: Even the supposedly safe fuel rods must then be stored safely. However, a final deposit does not yet exist in any country in the world. For this reason too, environmentalists are pushing for the fastest possible exit from nuclear power.