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Nuclear technology’s role in the world’s energy supply is shrinking

Nuclear technology’s role in the world’s energy supply is shrinking
Anniversaries of the Fukushima and Chernobyl disasters highlight the challenges of relying on nuclear power to cut net carbon emissions to zero. Nature 10 Mar 21,   …………….
With attention focused on nuclear disasters, it’s hard to imagine the enthusiasm with which nuclear energy was once regarded, when it was seen by many as one answer to global energy demand. From the first experimental reactor in 1951, reactors were commissioned at an increasing rate, with 20–30 commissioned almost every year during a peak period between the late 1960s and the end of the 1970s. A fire in 1957 at one of the United Kingdom’s power plants, Windscale — later renamed Sellafield — did not impede the global rate of growth……….
In addition to the deaths and health risks, the cost of the damages caused by Chernobyl is thought to exceed US$200 billion, and the Japan Center for Economic Research estimates the costs of decontaminating the Fukushima site to be between $470 billion and $660 billion. In the wake of the disaster, 12 of Japan’s reactors have been permanently shut; a further 24 remain closed pending ongoing safety reviews, which are adding to the costs.
What all of this means is that, on top of construction costs, any country investing in nuclear power must be prepared to set aside — or must have access to — vast sums that can be released in the event of disasters, whether they occur as a result of human error or natural phenomena.
What all of this means is that, on top of construction costs, any country investing in nuclear power must be prepared to set aside — or must have access to — vast sums that can be released in the event of disasters, whether they occur as a result of human error or natural phenomena.

Considering the barriers to the adoption of nuclear energy, it is not surprising that much of the nuclear energy generated around the world is produced by nuclear-weapons states. Most countries will baulk at the idea of setting up a nuclear power plant if the total bill could run to hundreds of billions of dollars.

By contrast, although renewable-energy technologies are still in their relative infancy, their costs are falling and their regulation is much more straightforward. This is important: the technology used to turn on lights or charge mobile phones shouldn’t need to involve national or international defence apparatus.

Clearly, nuclear energy will be with us for some time. New plants are being built and older ones will take time to decommission. But it is not proving to be the solution it was once seen as for decarbonizing the world’s energy market. Nuclear power has benefits, but its continued low take-up indicates that some countries think these are outweighed by the risks. For others, the development of nuclear energy is unaffordable. If the world is to achieve net zero carbon emissions, the focus must be on renewable energies — and one of their greatest benefits is that their sources are available, freely, to all nations.

March 11, 2021 - Posted by | general

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