La energía nuclear en la balanza

VIENA – Con frecuencia me preguntan si la energía nuclear es segura. Mi respuesta habitual es: “Sí... tanto como los viajes en avión”. Accidentes de avión ocurren, pero unos sistemas de seguridad muy eficaces garantizan que sean extraordinariamente escasos... tanto, que la mayoría de nosotros monta en aviones sin preocuparse por la posibilidad de que pudiera no llegar a nuestro destino. Lo mismo se puede decir de la energía nuclear, aunque siempre hay la preocupación por que un accidente muy grave tenga importantes consecuencias medioambientales y humanas.

Se trata de una cuestión que tiene un interés más que meramente académico. El futuro de la energía nuclear será uno de los asuntos sobre la mesa en la Conferencia de las Naciones Unidas sobre el Cambio Climático que se celebrará en diciembre en Copenhague. En los veinte próximos años podría duplicarse la capacidad mundial en materia de energía nuclear. Ya hay treinta países que utilizan la energía nuclear y muchos de ellos, incluidas China, Rusia y la India, tienen previstas importantes ampliaciones de sus programas vigentes. Otros sesenta países –la mayoría de ellos del mundo en desarrollo– han informado al Organismo Internacional de Energía Atómica (OIEA) de que están interesados en introducir la energía atómica.

La energía nuclear presenta atractivos evidentes tanto para los países ricos como para los pobres. El mundo en desarrollo necesita apremiantemente el acceso a la electricidad para que contribuya a sacar a su población de la pobreza y garantizar un desarrollo sostenible. En algunos países africanos, el consumo de electricidad por habitante asciende a unos 50 kilovatios-hora al año, frente a 8.600 kilovatios-hora, por término medio, en los países de la OCDE.

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