October 9, 2023

Transforming the nuclear landscape


The world is currently striving to achieve net zero emissions, with nations and industries committing to reducing their carbon footprints in order to combat climate change. This global effort involves transitioning to cleaner energy sources – such as solar, wind and hydro power – and adopting sustainable practices. However, one source of clean energy is often overlooked. Nuclear power can offer a reliable low-carbon energy source, yet public opinion on this technology is still very much divided. The nuclear energy industry must therefore promote education and transparency while addressing scepticism and safety concerns.

Filling the energy gaps

Solar, wind and hydro power are popular sources of clean energy, but it is important to be aware of their limitations in terms of both the amount of energy they can generate, and seasonal and geographical availability. Solar power generation is influenced by sunlight accessibility, peaking during summer months – when there are more daylight hours – while wind power depends on seasonal wind patterns, often being stronger in winter and spring due to weather systems. The amount of water will dictate the output of hydro plants, which will also fluctuate throughout the year. Seasonal variations impact the reliability of these renewable sources, often requiring them to be supplemented with alternative energy sources. In many cases, this will involve burning coal or fossil fuels. Investing in nuclear power can help to maintain a reliable energy supply, filling in the gaps when other clean energy sources cannot deliver.


Educating the public

Harnessing the advantages of nuclear power effectively requires shifting public perception away from past nuclear accidents like those in Chernobyl and Fukushima. While these tragic incidents should not be ignored, it’s crucial to recognise that modern nuclear technology is inherently safer, backed by stringent planning, maintenance and safety measures. Concerns about nuclear waste storage are also valid, but today’s knowledge allows us to manage it in an environmentally responsible manner that poses minimal threat to our planet.


Investing in a green future

The nuclear power industry not only requires the support of the public, but also relies on funding from both governments and private investors. Having a well-developed regulatory structure and funding model is paramount to ensure the industry’s growth and sustainability. A robust regulatory framework can help to ensure safety standards are upheld, while financial support from governments and private investors can promote the development of advanced technologies and the expansion of safe nuclear power. Global regulatory cooperation – championed by reputable organisations such as World Nuclear Association – can further streamline this transformation, allowing universal designs to be approved once, instead of separate approval processes each time a new facility is built. This would significantly lower the cost of new nuclear power stations and speed up the approvals process.


Moving forwards

Nuclear power can provide clean energy that does not vary with the season, complementing solar, wind and hydro technologies to help us move away from fossil fuels. For those who are still suspicious of this technology, it is important to remember that modern nuclear power plants have evolved tremendously in the past decades, with digital tools such as augmented or virtual reality to simplify risk assessment and training, as well as innovative and robust waste storage solutions. World Nuclear Association plays a significant role in promoting the development and adoption of advanced nuclear technologies, including small nuclear reactors (SMRs), which can make this clean energy more accessible across the globe. Nuclear technology can help us to achieve net zero emissions, but doing so will require global cooperation and support to lower the threshold for this transition.

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