Growing popularity can be nullified by one accident

July 21, 2022, Bavaria, Essenbach: Water vapor rises behind sunflowers from the cooling system of the nuclear power plant (NPP) Isar 2.

Photo Alliance | Photo Alliance | Getty Images

Nuclear power is at an inflection point. Early admiration for its potential was undermined by a series of devastating and dangerous accidents: Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania, 1979; Chernobyl in Ukraine in 1986.; as well as Fukushima Daiichi in Japan in 2011.

But now, thanks to new technologies and an increasingly urgent need to combat climate change, nuclear power is getting a second chance to become a prominent part of the global energy system. This is because nuclear power generation does not create dangerous greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change.

In with panel discussion at the UN on Tuesdaya group of nuclear leaders from around the world gathered to discuss the scope of this renaissance and why it is so important for the industry to work together to ensure gold-standard safety measures are in place everywhere.

Any nuclear accident, anywhere, could disrupt the nuclear industry’s most significant momentum in decades.

$1 trillion expected global demand

U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm stated that nuclear power represents 20% of the United States’ base power and 50% of its non-carbon power. “And that’s just from the fleet we have today, with no other additions we hope to see.”

Future nuclear reactors and plants are almost certain to use technologies other than the current standard, as both US labs and private companies fund research into more efficient reactors that are cheaper to build and generate less waste. Granholm mentioned as an example the advanced nuclear reactor, which TerraPower, Bill GatesA nuclear innovation company is setting up in a former coal town in Wyoming.

The Department of Energy estimates that the demand for advanced nuclear reactors worldwide will be about $1 trillion, Granholm said. This includes the jobs to build these reactors and all the associated supply chains that will need to be ramped up to support the industry, Granholm said.

“The bottom line is that the spread of advanced nuclear energy is a priority for us,” Granholm said. “Of course, all these technologies must begin and end with nuclear safety.”

According to him, the change in attitude towards nuclear energy happened quite quickly. Rafael GrossiCEO International Atomic Energy Agency.

The photo shows dogs walking past a ferris wheel in the background in the ghost town of Pripyat near the Chernobyl nuclear power plant on May 29, 2022, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Dimitar Dilkoff | AFP | Getty Images

“Until a few years ago, nuclear energy was not present and perhaps not even welcomed” at the annual COP conferences, which means Conference of the Parties and provides world leaders with an opportunity to discuss climate change. “The IAEA quickly went from being an almost uninvited guest to a very welcome participant in this dialogue, in which there is a place for nuclear power.”

The next COP conference will take place in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, November.and then one at Dubai Expo City’s United Arab Emirates. The IAEA plans to take part in both of these conferences.

“The very fact that we are talking about a nuclear CC in Egypt, and in the Persian Gulf, in itself tells you a lot about what is happening and how we are changing, and about the possibilities that we have and that could be almost just a few years ago it was impossible to foresee,” Grossi said.

Safety First

But proponents emphasize that for nuclear power to continue to participate in these climate change conferences and discussions, the entire international community must work together to uphold strict safety and non-proliferation standards.

“Today no one will buy a car if it gets into an accident every day. Therefore, safety and security … are the basis for the successful deployment of nuclear energy,” he said. Hamad Al Kaabirepresentative of the United Arab Emirates to the IAEA, on Tuesday.

“The question of how the nuclear industry works and how it is perceived around the world is that any accident anywhere is an accident everywhere,” Al-Kaabi said.

The UAE has three operating nuclear reactors and a fourth reactor in the final stages of commissioning, Al Kaabi said. But the construction of a nuclear power plant takes time, and this process in the UAE began about 13 years ago.

According to World Nuclear Association, International Trade Group. The country announced a plan to build a nuclear power plant back in 2006, but shelved those plans in 2016, in part due to costs. Then, in March, Vietnam released an official draft energy proposal that included small modular nuclear reactors.

The United States and the IAEA have been assisting Vietnam in its efforts to include nuclear power in its national energy plan, Deputy Foreign Minister Ha Kim Ngoc said at an event on Tuesday. Reactors are an attractive option for a relatively small country, Ngok said.

South Africa has two reactors, according to the World Nuclear Association, and now other countries in Africa are interested in deploying nuclear power.

“Most of the African countries where I come from have very small networks,” said Collins Juma, director general of the Kenya Atomic and Energy Agency. Advanced nuclear reactor designs, especially small modular reactors, are intriguing, but Juma has hinted that paying for such reactors can be tricky. “I’m not sure about the cost, but we’ll discuss it in other forums.”

If Africa works to decarbonize, nuclear power will be an important baseload consequence for the continent’s wind, solar and geothermal energy. But bringing nuclear power to Africa will require independent and strong regulation to reassure people of its safety.

“The nuclear issue is a very emotional topic,” Juma said. And this is the case when “everyone is an expert” and thinks they know it’s dangerous. “We have to be very careful when we develop a plan for a nuclear power plant. And the public, especially the public, needs to be sure” that the nuclear power plant is safe, he said.

Juma said he was asking for guidance from leading nuclear powers and organizations. “When you copy, you only copy the best, not the worst,” he said.

For countries interested in building nuclear power reactors, the IAEA has written this guide, “Milestones in the Development of a National Nuclear Power Infrastructure”. According to Grossi, this is a good start for countries.

“The moment is serious and we know that a red alert has been issued for planet Earth,” Grossi said. “We talked about it, but nuclear weapons are not for the few, nuclear weapons may be for the many.”