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People are afraid of nuclear energy. It has another chance because of the climate crisis

People are afraid of nuclear energy. It has another chance because of the climate crisis

Mothers for Nuclear member stated, “We have to allow this technology a chance,” joining hundreds of others who held signs outside the city’s famous Brandenburg Gate.

Nuclear plants are notoriously expensive to construct. Construction can be costly and take too long. Solar and wind energy are often cheaper. Another problem is how to safely store radioactive waste.

Germany was founded in The nuclear industry is being phased outFollowing the 2011 Fukushima disaster in JapanIn the aftermath of an earthquake and tsunami, three reactors were damaged in a nuclear meltdown. This was one of the most serious nuclear incidents ever. All six German reactors that are still in operation should be closed by the end next year.
Demonstrators in support of nuclear power outside Berlin's Brandenburg Gate on Saturday, November 13.
Yet, the scale of climate crisis is inspiring other governments and investors. Give the nuclear industry a second look.

The appetite of people will determine whether the world invests in nuclear. Ruishalme, one, hopes they will Put aside your worries.

She said that “our gut feelings don’t provide ready-made solutions.” She also stated that she once considered it “too risky” but changed her mind after studying the pros and cons.

Europe’s big decision

About 10% of the world’s electricity is currently produced by nuclear energy. Some countries have a higher share. The United States of America and the United Kingdom each generate around 20% of their electricity using nuclear energy. According to the French Energy Agency, it is 70%. World Nuclear Association.

The world is now at a nuclear crossroads: It could scale up nuclear as a sturdy energy source to keep emissions down, or throw all its money behind renewables, which are quicker to build and more profitable — but sometimes patchy.

Advocates insist that nuclear power flows Even when the sun doesn’t shine or the wind doesn’t blow, it doesn’t matter.

James Hansen, a Columbia University climate scientist, said that renewables must be complemented with a reliable, 24/7 source of energy. He also participated in the Berlin demonstration.

The UK government also agrees. It supports the country’s construction. First nuclear power stationIn more than 20 years In southwestern England. In the US, President Joe Biden has included $6 billion in grants for older plants in his infrastructure package. France’s President Emmanuel Macron announced recently that it would start building new plants for nearly 20 years.

This puts France and Germany at odds before the crucial European Union decision on whether to classify nucleus as “green” or transitional on a controversial list containing sustainable energy sources, which will be revealed Wednesday. The outcome could either unleash a flood of new funding or leave nuclear behind.

The Grohnde nuclear power station in Lower Saxony, Germany. It will be decommissioned later this month.

EU climate chief Frans Timmermans recently indicated that both nuclear and natural gas — which is made up mostly of the greenhouse gas methane — could qualify for green financing.

He said that he believes there needs to be a way to recognize that these two sources of energy play a part in the energy transition. Politico hosted the event. “That doesn’t make them green. But it acknowledges the fact that nuclear is zero-emissions and will be very important in transitioning away from coal to renewable energy.
Although nuclear power generates zero emissions, it must be mined to extract the uranium that is required to make it. This process releases greenhouse gases. However, there are some positive aspects to nuclear power. Analysis by the European CommissionWhen the full production cycle is taken into consideration, it was found that nuclear emits about the same amount as wind energy but less than solar.

Hansen, who is a long-standing advocate for nuclear power, stated that it is crucial in global efforts decarbonize and that Germany should not use its political clout in order to block new investment.

He said, “The consequence of treating this as not sustainable is that we’re going to not have a pathway for limiting climate change at the level that young Americans are now demanding.” “It is crucial that Germany does not have the ability to impose this policy upon the rest of Europe or the world.

But German politicians and experts argue that high costs and the time it takes to build new plants — no fewer than five years, and often much longer — mean money would be better spent elsewhere.

The UN-backed climate science has shown that the world needs to reduce its carbon emissions by almost half in this decade if it wants to limit global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius by the end century. This is essential to avoid increasing climate impacts. The world must also aim for net zero by the middle of the century. This means that emissions must be reduced to the maximum extent possible and that any excess must be captured or offset.

Only current pledges, including those made at COP26 in Scotland, are currently accepted Make the world your playground One-quarter of it is thereClimate Action Tracker says that it is.

According to the International Energy Agency, nuclear power generation should be encouraged. The pursuit of net zero will see its share increase by more than two-thirds between 2020-2050. Its share in the electricity mix may drop, but that is because demand for power, which includes cars, will rise as more people electrify their world.

Ben Wealer, a researcher at the Technical University of Berlin who studies nuclear power economics, believes that the world cannot wait. for new nuclear power plants, especially as the next eight years are so critical to decarbonizing.

“It cannot be a great help in fighting climate change if you look at the time frames,” he stated. “It blocks the money we need for renewables.”

Even if the world had more time, delays can still be a problem. For example, the Hinkley Point C plant in Britain is expected to be finished in mid-2026. This is six months later than originally planned and costs are increasing. The latest price tag was as much as £23 billion ($30 billion), about £5 billion ($6.6 billion) more than when the project was launched in 2016.

German officials also believe that nuclear should be disqualified as a sustainable energy source because there is no global plan to store toxic waste.

Christoph Hamann is a German federal office for nuclear Waste Management. He stressed that government efforts at creating underground storage areas where waste can be stored indefinitely remains a work in progress.

“We’re referring to a very toxic, radioactive waste that is causing problems for the next tens or hundreds of thousands of year. Hamann stated that the problem is being directed to future generations by using nuclear power.

Wave of funding

It’s not just Europe who is thinking more nuclear. The China is the country with the most energyThe world’s largest coal emitter, tries to shift away from coal by building 18 reactors. This is more than 30% of all reactors currently being built worldwide. According to the World Nuclear Association.

The debate is getting more complicated as new nuclear technologies become available and show promise of better financial returns.

The US government has TerraPower has been backedBill Gates is the founder of the startup. The company wants to set up a next generation nuclear project at a former Wyoming coal hub. They use molten sodium to transfer heat from the reactor to generate electricity. This will allow them to simplify construction and adjust output to meet changing needs.

Britain is supporting an engineering firm push while it waits. Rolls-Royce will build smaller nuclear reactors with lower upfront costs. This pitch could attract private investors.

Iida Ruishalme, the European director of Mothers for Nuclear, traveled to Berlin to show her support of nuclear power.

Tom Samson, CEO of the new Rolls-Royce venture, stated that it is very difficult for any country without nuclear to achieve net zero ambitions.

Rolls-Royce reactors are designed so that almost all of them can be assembled in a factory. This reduces the time it takes to put its components together at a costly construction site. Initially, production is estimated at £2.2 billion ($2.9 billion) per unit.

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Samson stated, “If you look back on history, there are many examples of large nuclear projects that have failed.” “We designed ours to be different.”

About £210 million ($278 million) in funding from the UK government will allow the company to begin applying for regulatory approvals. It plans to establish three factories in Britain and begin producing approximately two units per year. This would power 2,000,000 homes. The first unit It is expected that it will enter service in the United Kingdom by 2031.

The following is a comparison: Hinkley power station will provide electricity to 6 million homes.

Samson also stresses that smaller reactors produce very little waste. He stated that the spent fuel from a small modular nuclear reactor would be enough to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool.

Fission or Fusion?

Data from PitchBook shows that in the first nine months 2021, $676 million was raised by venture capital funds for nuclear energy startups. This is more than the sum raised in the five previous years.

This figure includes funding for startups exploring nuclear fusion, which is attracting more attention. Current nuclear power generators use fission technology. This involves splitting the nucleus an atom. Fusion is the process of combining two nuclei to create energy — often referred to as the energy of the sun or the stars.

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Scientists are still trying to figure out how to manage a successful fusion reaction and make it a viable commercial project. Investors are excited about this project. its potentialBecause it doesn’t produce radioactive waste, and it doesn’t pose a risk of a Fukushima meltdown, it also doesn’t rely on uranium.

Helion, a US-based fusion company, announced last month it had raised $500,000,000 in a round managed by Sam Altman (the former president of Y Combinator).

It could take years before the world decides which direction to go on nuclear. The answer may lie in France and Germany 10-20 years from now.

Arguments over emissions, reliability, economics, and so on may eventually be abandoned. The true future of nuclear could be determined by public opinion.

Henning Gloystein, Eurasia Group director of energy, climate, and resources, stated that a nuclear accident could cause a major catastrophe, which could result in the death of the entire industry.

— Xiaofei Lu contributed reporting.

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