“We don’t do nuclear energy” was the categorical pronouncement made this week by the president of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim. The World Bank says it will not fund nuclear power instead giving development money to sustainable energy projects.
Kim and UN leader Ban Ki-moon outlined efforts to ensure all people have access to electricity by 2030. The announcement roundly contradicts a favorite sound bite of the Pandora’s Promise promoters who insist nuclear energy is the only hope to electrify the Third World.
Pointing out that nuclear is an "extremely political issue," Kim stated that the bank would look only at new technologies, including solar, wind and geothermal energy. “We will show investors that sustainable energy is an opportunity they cannot afford to miss,” he said.
World Bank president Jim Yong Kim and UN leader Ban Ki-moon outlined efforts to ensure all people have access to electricity by 2030, as part of a joint effort by the U.N. and World Bank called The Sustainable Energy for All initiative. This initiative will focus on supplying modern energy services such as lighting, clean cooking solutions and power for productive purposes in developing countries, as well as scaled-up energy efficiency, especially in the world’s highest-energy consuming countries.
Kim said "The World Bank Group does not engage in providing support for nuclear power. We think that this is an extremely difficult conversation that every country is continuing to have..."
“And because we are really not in that business our focus is on finding ways of working in hydro electric power, in geo-thermal, in solar, in wind,” he said.
“We are really focusing on increasing investment in those modalities and we don’t do nuclear energy..."
Clearly, the World Bank has adopted an energy funding policy that has abandoned nuclear investment in the developing world. This follows the Bank's only direct funding for a nuclear power reactor in Italy in 1959-- a General Electric design --to the tune of 40 million dollars (almost 2/3 of the construction cost). At that time, after a four year examination, the Bank concluded "...there were good prospects that power could be produced by a nuclear plant at costs competitive, or close to competitive, with power produced by a conventional plant..." but only under certain restrictions.
Turns out this initial Bank conclusion was too hopeful. The Garigliano nuclear power facility shut down in 1982, after being offline for four years and following a series of accidents and radioactive spills into groundwater eventually contaminating the Garigliano River. It appears, to its credit, the World Bank has learned from this decades-old mistake.
While the Bank has not directly funded nuclear power since this sole investment, there is evidence that the Czech Republic and Bulgaria funneled general funds from World Bank projects into nuclear energy. It is not clear that either the Czech Republic or Bulgaria would have fit the country profile for viable operation of nuclear power that the World Bank said, in the late 50's, was necessary for its funding nuclear. If not, it is possible these funds were misappropriated by the receiving countries. These restrictions included sufficient availability of capital, extensive generation and distribution systems, rate payers who could afford higher-than-normal electricity costs, high conventional energy costs, and back up energy capacity to compensate for nuclear power failure, among others.
Ultimately, the World Bank seems to conclude that an investment in energy efficiency and renewable energy is much better than one in nuclear, especially for underserved nations: "With the skyrocketing demand for electricity in underserved communities and the need to expand access to communities that have no service at all, the focus is on low cost, low investment alternatives..." CleanTechnica
Add to this the Fukushima catastrophe, the democratic and security hurdles that plague nuclear energy worldwide, and it becomes clear that the Bank is looking to fund a more safe, secure and affordable energy footing in the developing world.