The EU was to agree on a target of 42.5 per cent of renewable power in the bloc’s energy mix by 2030.
However, France relies on nuclear power for most of its electricity. So, nuclear-derived electricity must coexist with renewable electricity, the French say.
France leads a coalition that would like to promote a positive image of the nuclear industry with the claim that nuclear energy is central to Europe’s transition to a low-carbon economy. Meanwhile, Germany, Spain and Austria insist that the EU should focus on renewable to end reliance on Russian gas and cut CO2 emissions.
Since the outbreak of the conflict in Ukraine, nuclear energy was seen as the best option to meet increasing demand and achieve net-zero targets.
The US Energy Information Administration say global electricity needs will be up 70 per cent by 2050. Yet, most countries have declared their commitment to zeroing out their net impact on the climate by the middle of the century.
Even so, the association with WMDs and safety fears eclipse a potentially rosy nuclear future. The pro-nuclear camp highlights the safety record of nuclear plants. Environmentalists regard atom-splitting the better option to fossil fuels.
After shutting down its nuclear plants, Germany was criticised by environmentalists for burning more coal. The US Energy Department published its report in March on advanced nuclear energy saying that the US “will need ~550–770 [gigawatts] of additional clean, firm capacity to reach net-zero; and nuclear power is one of the few proven options that could deliver this at scale”.
The pro-nuclear faction are determined to alter the all-too common perception that ‘nuclear’means nukes and mushroom clouds. Rather, nuclear energy will meet our carbon-free energy transition and is indeed environment-friendly, they say.
However, those who see danger in accepting such rhetoric believe that nuclear energy is unsustainable. It is not renewable and consumes non-renewable fuel.
According to the IAEA, it takes 60,000 tonnes of uranium a year to keep the world’s 410 existing reactors fired up. But with expectations to turn to nuclear power to address climate change, energy security, and sustainable development, demand could be as high as 100,000 tons of uranium annually by 2040, which would require doubling uranium mines. Besides, uranium spot prices have increased 50 per cent since 2021.
Nuclear power also produces radioactive waste. The detractors say governments should focus on renewable while they fear that investments in nuclear energy would come at the expense of renewables.
So, can investment in nuclear go hand in hand with sustainable energy investment?
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