Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency Rafael Mariano Grossi has issued strong support for nuclear energy posing as a replacement for fossil fuel energy; “Nuclear energy is part of the solution to global warming, there’s no way around it”.
His remarks come as COP26 welcomes the idea of nuclear energy serving a future purpose as a provider as the summit urgently seeks a transition from fossil fuels.
This is a dramatic attitude shift as nuclear energy has historically been deemed problematic and kept to the sidelines.
This is down to many factors, with some of the more obvious ones being the issues associated with nuclear waste as well as concerns that originate from historic disasters such as Chernobyl and Fukushima.
Despite its carbon-free nature, the above issues overruled any future that nuclear energy had as being a predominant supplier of electricity.
However, out of an act of desperation and the necessity of seeking a solution to both climate change and the energy crisis, nuclear energy is progressively appearing more attractive to world leaders as an alternative.
Already accounting for 25% of “clean” carbon-free energy worldwide, Mr. Grossi said that COP26 is the first place where it has “had a seat on the table”.
According to scientists, the only slight chance we have of preventing global temperatures from rising 1.5C above pre-industrial levels is if global emissions are cut by 50% by the year 2030.
However, current speculation suggests that we are not moving in the right direction with a report on Thursday stating that emissions in 2021 are approaching record levels.
Statements like these are what’s fuelling the appeal for nuclear energy. CEO of Thomas Thor Associates, a nuclear recruitment firm, Calum Thomas stated that nuclear energy was not welcome at the Paris COP in 2015.
Wearing a T-shirt that read “Let’s talk nuclear” at the summit, Thomas stated, “There was a belief it was not needed. Now many countries are looking at the feasibility, especially with the rise in gas prices.”
However, according to Mr. Grossi, “nuclear is not only welcome, but is generating a lot of interest” at the COP26 summit. “Nuclear energy goes on and on for the entire year, it never stops”.
Although efficient, many believe that prolonged construction times associated with nuclear power plants will make it too late to join the battle against climate change.
Grossi suggested that keeping existing reactors up and running might be the solution as many power plants designed to run for 40 years are now licensed for 60 years.
“What could be more efficient than a facility that you build that gives you energy for close to 100 years?”
Although acknowledging that plants operating this long may be a “bit of provocation”, he said that the idea is still possible.
IMAGE – “Rafael Mariano Grossi delivers remarks a” (CC BY 2.0) by IAEA Imagebank