Dozens of countries pledge support for nuclear energy, despite persistent concerns

More than thirty countries have pledged to pursue nuclear energy as a way to achieve global climate goals. Yet nuclear power is still a controversial energy source bogged down by concerns about radioactive waste, safety and high costs.

At a nuclear energy summit in Brussels yesterday, countries pledged to “commit to fully unlocking the potential of nuclear energy by taking measures such as creating conditions to support and competitively finance the extension of the life of existing nuclear reactors, the construction of new nuclear power plants and the early deployment of advanced reactors,” The Associated Press reports. The US, China, Japan, France, Britain and Saudi Arabia were among the 34 countries that signed the pledge.

It’s a bold statement to support an energy source that has deeply divided many governments and environmental groups. Nuclear power doesn’t produce the greenhouse gas emissions that warm the planet, but the supply chain’s carbon footprint and waste pose other problems. And after decades of missteps, the technology still has to prove whether it can be an affordable, safe alternative to the fossil fuels that cause climate change.

Nuclear power doesn’t generate the greenhouse gas emissions that warm the planet, but the supply chain’s carbon footprint and waste pose other problems

Nearly every country on earth has committed to combating climate change as part of the Paris Agreement. This requires a transition from fossil fuels to clean energy in the coming decades. Fortunately, renewable energy sources such as solar and wind are already cheaper than coal and gas and are expected to make up the majority of new electricity sources deployed in the coming years. The challenge lies in finding reserve energy sources for times when the wind dies down and the sun sets.

Proponents of nuclear energy say it is the perfect complement to renewable energy sources because nuclear reactors can generate electricity around the clock. “Nuclear energy is indispensable, together with renewable energy… We must devise a strategy to attract further investments needed to increase the use of nuclear energy,” Japanese Parliamentary Vice Foreign Minister Komura Masahiro said at yesterday’s nuclear energy summit was held. of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

It’s a remarkable turnaround from the fears stoked more than a decade ago when an earthquake and tsunami caused a catastrophic meltdown at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. In December, Japan was one of more than 20 countries that agreed to triple the world’s renewable energy capacity by 2050. The country still plans to prioritize renewable energy, Masahiro said, and “at the same time, Japan will continuously reflect on the lessons of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident and ensure that the use of nuclear energy makes safety the top priority. ”

There is still skepticism about whether a nuclear renaissance is a good idea. Existing reactors and the radioactive waste they produce still pose risks. IAEA Director Rafael Mariano Grossi has tried to broker agreements between Russia and Ukraine to prevent a meltdown at Ukraine’s Zaporizhia nuclear power plant during the ongoing war. In the US, tribes and environmentalists have been fighting to halt the revival of uranium mining, which has a legacy of polluting water sources.

At the summit, John Podesta, senior adviser to the US president for clean energy innovation and implementation, praised the construction of the country’s first all-new power plant in decades. Georgia’s Vogtle Unit 3 reactor finally came online last year, a whopping $17 billion over budget after seven years of delays.

Next-generation nuclear reactors would be easier and cheaper to build. But they have not solved the problem of radioactive waste. They will need more highly enriched uranium, of which Russia is the largest supplier. And a major demonstration project using advanced small modular reactors in Utah was canceled in November after costs soared.

Protesters from environmental group Greenpeace yesterday tried to block roads leading to the Nuclear Power Summit, claiming they could delay the arrival of some delegates.

“All the evidence shows that nuclear power is too slow to build, too expensive, and remains highly polluting and dangerous,” said Lorelei Limousin, senior campaigner at Greenpeace EU. “We are in a climate emergency, so time is precious, and governments here today are wasting it with nuclear power fairytales.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *