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Nuclear power is on the brink of a $1 trillion resurgence, but one accident anywhere could stop that momentum

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

Picture Alliance | Picture Alliance | Getty Images

Nuclear energy reaches an inflection point. Early exuberance about its potential was undercut by way of a group of devastating and dangerous accidents: Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania in 1979;Chornobyl in Ukraine in 1986; and Fukushima Daiichi in Japanin 2011.

However now, because of new technology and the increasingly urgent have to fight climate change, nuclear energy gets another shot at learning to be a prominent area of the global energy grid. That’s because nuclear energy generation will not create the dangerous greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change.

In a panel discussion at the US on Tuesday, an accumulation of nuclear energy leaders from all over the world gathered to go over the scope of this renaissance and just why it’s so critical that the work together to make sure gold-standard safety precautions are adopted everywhere.

A nuclear accident anywhere gets the potential to upset probably the most major momentum the nuclear industry has already established in decades.

$1 trillion in expected global demand

U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm said that nuclear energy represents 20% of the United States’ baseload power, and 50% of its no-carbon-emissions power. “And that is just from the fleet that people have today minus the other additions that people are hoping to see.”

Future nuclear reactors and plants will likely use different technology from the existing standard, as both U.S. labs and private companies are funding research into better reactors which are cheaper to create and generate less waste. Granholm mentioned, for example, the advanced nuclear reactor that TerraPower, Bill Gates‘ nuclear innovation company, is installing in a former coal town in Wyoming.

Demand for advanced nuclear reactors will undoubtedly be worth about $1 trillion globally, Granholm said, in accordance with an estimate from the Department of Energy. Which includes the jobs to building those reactors and all of the associated supply chains that may need to crank up to support the, Granholm said.

“Important thing is spreading advanced nuclear energy is really a priority for all of us,” Granholm said. “Needless to say, these technologies all need to begin and end with nuclear security and safety.”

The change in sentiment surrounding nuclear energy has happened quite quickly, said Rafael Grossi, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

An image shows dogs passing by way of a Ferris wheel in background in the ghost town of Pripyat close to the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant on, may 29, 2022, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Dimitar Dilkoff | AFP | Getty Images

“Until just a couple years back, nuclear wouldn’t normally be present, as well as perhaps not welcome” at the annual COP conferences, which means Conference of the Parties and a chance for global leaders to go over climate change. “The IAEA has moved quite fast from almost an intruder right into a very welcomed participant in this dialogue where nuclear includes a place.”

Another COP conference will undoubtedly be in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, in November, accompanied by one at Dubai Expo City in the United Arab Emirates. The IAEA is likely to participate both these conferences.

“The mere proven fact that we are discussing COPs with nuclear in Egypt, and in the Gulf, in and alone is letting you know lots of what’s happening and how exactly we are changing and the options that people have and which could have already been almost unforeseeable just a couple years back,” Grossi said.

Health and safety first

But if nuclear would be to continue being part of these conferences and climate change conversations, supporters stress that the complete international community must work together to stick to strict safety and nonproliferation standards.

“Nobody’s investing in a car today if it enters an accident each day. So security and safety … may be the foundation for successful deployment of nuclear energy,” said Hamad Al Kaabi, the United Arab Emirates’ representative to the IAEA, on Tuesday.

“The problem how nuclear industry works and is perceived globally, any accident anywhere can be an accident everywhere,” Al Kaabi said.

The UAE has three nuclear reactors functioning and a fourth reactor in the ultimate stages of commissioning, Al Kaabi said. But building nuclear plants does take time, and the procedure in the UAE started approximately 13 years back.

Vietnam has been considering nuclear power for many years now, based on the World Nuclear Association, a global trade group. The united states announced an idea to create a nuclear power plant back 2006, but put those plans on hold in 2016, partly due to the expense. Then, in March, Vietnam published the official draft energy proposal which includes small modular nuclear reactors.

AMERICA and the IAEA have both helped guide Vietnam in its efforts to add nuclear energy in its national energy plan, Ha Kim Ngoc, deputy foreign minister, said at Tuesday’s event. The reactors are an attractive option for the relatively small country, Ngoc said.

South Africa has two reactors, based on the World Nuclear Association, and today other countries in Africa want in deploying nuclear energy.

“The majority of the countries where I result from in Africa have really small grids,” said CEO Collins Juma of Kenya’s Nuclear Power and Energy Agency. Advanced nuclear reactor designs, especially small modular reactors, are intriguing, but Juma did hint that spending money on such reactors may be hard. “I’m uncertain concerning the cost, but we will be discussing that in other forums.”

As Africa works to decarbonize, nuclear is really a critical baseload corollary to wind, solar and geothermal in the continent. But bringing nuclear energy to Africa will demand independent and strong regulation to convince people it really is safe.

“Nuclear is an extremely emotive topic,” Juma said. And it’s really one where “many people are a specialist” and thinks they know it really is dangerous. “We need to be careful whenever we are creating a nuclear power plan. And the general public, especially the general public, need to have confidence” that the nuclear energy plant is safe, he said.

Juma said he was requesting guidance from leading nuclear powers and organizations. “Once you copy, you merely copy from the very best, you do not copy from the worst,” he said.

For countries which are thinking about building nuclear power reactors, IAEA has written a genuine guidebook, “Milestones in the Development of a COMMERCIAL INFRASTRUCTURE for Nuclear Power.” That is clearly a good place for countries to start out, Grossi said.

“As soon as is serious, and we realize it really is red alert for THE WORLD,” Grossi said. “We’ve been saying this, but nuclear isn’t for a couple, nuclear could be for the countless.”

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