The Role of Nuclear Energy in Meeting Climate Change Goals.
Following an international drive towards a greener and more environmentally sustainable society, alternative resources to oil coal and gas must be seriously considered by all nations, in order to minimize the growing issue of climate change and begin to reduce global heating temperatures. “The Paris accord, agreed in 2015 by about 195 nations, seeks to wean the global economy off fossil fuels in the second half of this century, limiting the rise in average temperatures to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial times” (Malo, 2019). One of the main options which seem a largely viable alternative is nuclear energy, which is an area regulated by the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Association) who oversee such innovations.
The United Kingdom have committed to researching and investigating safer and more efficient ways to implement nuclear energy, investing £385 million in an Advanced Nuclear Fund, and a further £40 million in developing the regulatory frameworks necessary. Although they have recently proposed a focus on solar and wind energy production, they have also acknowledged a need for intermittent forms of power generators that are able to generate electricity at a more reliable rate than the other renewable sources, hence their interest in expanding their nuclear energy production. As of 2022, nuclear energy makes up around 17% percent of the UK’s energy, therefore regulation and innovation in this area is of particular importance to our nation.
The current issues surrounding nuclear power are its unattainable expenses in setting up plants, which are not viable across developing nations without the support of developed economies. China and Russia have taken initiative towards building nuclear power plants in sub-Saharan Africa to increase their energy production, which will not only provide an adequate amount of electricity for current household demand, but also allow further production and therefore economic growth for these developing nations. This will help the issue of unemployment in parts of Africa, through the boost in domestic manufacturing. However, the United Kingdom is “concerned about the prospect of nuclear reactors backed by Russia in some countries with rebel groups and weak government institutions.” (Malo, 2019) especially since Russia and China are widely viewed as political opposition to western countries, mainly ideologically. The largescale expansion of nuclear power plants for these countries may mean benefits in terms of nuclear energy and therefore greater ease in manufacturing and researching nuclear weapons, which may pose a threat to other nations in the long term. It could also mean greater access to nuclear weapons within African nations, problematically inhabiting many rebel groups.
Aside from this, historic occurrences such as Chernobyl should serve as a deterrent for building under-regulated nuclear plants in developing countries, as these may not have the same means of nuclear waste disposal which may lead to similar disasters. Regulation and safety are imperative in the development of this energy resource.
The UK has already taken steps towards cost reduction through the Nuclear Sector Deal, published in 2018, to reduce the cost of nuclear new build by 30% by 2030. The deal also aims to build “a more competitive supply chain, with more UK companies using advanced manufacturing methods and entering domestic and export markets for nuclear goods and services.” (Nuclear Sector Deal, 2018). We are essentially open to further projects later if the nuclear industry demonstrates that it is able to reduce costs and deliver to time constraints. Our current form of nuclear waste disposal is geological disposal, which places waste in underground repositories and provides a barrier against the escape of radioactivity, therefore providing a safe form of disposal. Moreover, the UK public is primarily in favor of nuclear energy; A 2021 survey conducted by the UK Department for Business Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) found that 44 percent of UK's residents strongly or slightly agree that nuclear energy provides an affordable source of energy in the United Kingdom. (UK: public opinion on nuclear energy 2021 | Statista, 2021) showing it can be a positive and widely accepted innovation towards ending climate change.
- Haizea. H