Nuclear Power Is a Key Factor In Combating Global Climate Change

nuclear submarine
nuclear submarine

Today there is no need to say that climate change issue is becoming more and more of a pressing challenge which needs complex and efficient response. Landmark COP 21 and COP 22 summits have set a major goal and strategy to limit the rise in global mean temperatures to 2°C, which will be impossible without gradual decarbonization.

nuclear submarine
nuclear submarine

To achieve this ambitious goal, nuclear energy will have to play a greater and more crucial role in the development of a clean energy mix. Only through the development of a low carbon sustainable mix of energy sources, including nuclear and renewables technologies, will it be possible to solve this global problem.

However, we should be bear in mind that in foreseeable future, due to constant global economic growth and urbanization, the global electricity demand is expected to increase significantly, even upon the background of improved end-user efficiency. It is estimated that sub-Saharan Africa alone will consume nearly 1,600 terawatt hours by 2040, four times what was used in 2010. By 2040, sub-Saharan Africa will consume as much electricity as India and Latin America combined did in 2010.

In this case, nuclear energy coupled with hydropower and renewables can become a pillar of a new and environmentally friendly low-carbon global energy mix. To date, nuclear power sources have proven their technological advantages and readiness for immediate deployment to guarantee sustainable and affordable baseload energy.

Diversification of energy generation sources at the same time can initiate a broad wave of electrification, which will help decarbonize other sectors as well.

For his part James Conca, one of the leading experts in the field of environment and climate change, argues that nuclear technologies are mature and safe. Moreover, he argues that the barriers nuclear energy may face today have nothing to do with factors with technical safety or scientific innovations, but with political or social misconceptions.

Indeed, nuclear power technology has been developing continuously over more than 60 years, and the latest design nuclear plants – such as Rosatom’s Generation III + reactors – incorporate the unique experience gained over these decades in terms of safety, efficiency and sustainability.

Agneta Rising, Director General of the World Nuclear Association highlighted the importance of full global access to reliable and affordable electricity supplies. She added that nuclear power is a proven source of low-carbon electricity. It promotes the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions at the same time fostering sustainable development.

While technological progress has no limits, especially in energy sphere, nuclear power is without any doubt a mature and efficient technology. In 2015 the world’s top climate scientists, Dr. James Hansen, Dr. Tom Wigley, Dr. Ken Caldeira and Dr. Kerry Emanuel presented research showing the increasing urgency for the decarbonization of the world’s economy. Moreover, they indicated that renewables alone cannot meet the goal of limiting the global warming to 2°C. They stressed that a major expansion of nuclear power is essential to avoid dangerous anthropogenic disaster in the future.

For his part, Dr Anthonie Cilliers, Nuclear engineering specialist and programme manager of Nuclear School and Nuclear Engineering at the North-West University, mentioned that nuclear power has distinct benefits due to the large amounts and reliability of the electricity it produces, from very little fuel to the small area it takes up, with no emissions being blown into the atmosphere.

Nuclear power already plays an important role in reducing toxic emissions on a global scale. At present, nuclear reactors generate a third of all low-carbon power in the world, while the share of nuclear power in the global energy mix is currently around 11%. This figure is to be increased to 18% by 2030 and 25% by 2050 in order to ensure that the goals set at COP 21 and 22 are achieved.

Each year between 1.2 and 2.4 Gigatonnes (Gt or billion tonnes) of CO2 emissions are prevented thanks to nuclear power, assuming this power would otherwise be produced by burning either gas (500 gCO2/kWh) or coal (1 000 gCO2/kWh).

For instance, in Nigeria privately-owned off grid diesel generators generate twice as much emission as is produced by the grid connected coal power plants. The overall effect of these generators is huge. Roughly 9 million generators in Nigeria produce approximately 29 million metric tons of CO2 each year. A catastrophically huge number. And moreover, diesel generators do not resolve the pending problem of energy supply and efficiency.

Ogbonnaya Onu, Nigerian Minister of Science and Technology, highlighted that the nuclear power is considered a prominent alternative and a more environmentally beneficial solution since it emits far less greenhouse gases during electricity generation than coal or other traditional power plants. And that’s why Nigeria is embarking on the way of nuclear power development, not to mention nuclear power benefits from the point of view of its sustainability and affordability.

The same can be said about Kenya, which pledged to cut its emissions by 30% by 2030. Kenyan government plans to meets this goal by expanding the power capacities of renewable sources and starting the implementation of its first nuclear project, defying calls from international experts who urged the nation to instead focus on developing only renewable energy.

Unlike the combustion of fossil fuels, the process of nuclear fission does not produce any CO2 or other toxic substances, and thus nuclear plants do not emit greenhouse gases during their operation.

There are essentially only two options to decarbonize an ever-increasing electricity sector: nuclear power and renewable energy sources such as wind and solar PV. Of these two options, only nuclear provides guaranteed baseload electricity, since the variability of wind and solar PV requires flexible back-up that is frequently provided by carbon intensive peak-load plants.

But this does not mean that atomic power and renewables are competitors and mutually exclusive. Each has its own advantages and models of utilization and should therefore be used to complement one another. A balanced mix of clean and sustainable sources will provide the base load energy supply that emerging African nations require to grow their economies, while ensuring emissions-free energy to save the environment.

By: Rosatom MP

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