Nuclear Science Meeting Sustainability
As the global population continues to swell and pressures on natural resources escalate, thanks in part to increased demand and climate change; governments, industry and academia are looking to science for solutions.
“Nuclear power can bring health and prosperity to the 1.1 billion people in the world who currently do not have access to electricity,” stated World Nuclear Association Director General Agneta Rising at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) 60th Annual General Conference in Vienna, Austria.
In the fall of 2015, the global community met at the United Nations in New York and agreed to seventeen sustainable development goals (SDGs). The goals; ambitious and universal, seek to end poverty; provide access to affordable, clean energy; make communities more resilient and combat climate change. Investments in SDGs have the ability to make noticeable improvements to the health, environment and economics for both developing and developed countries.
The commitment to realize the achievement of SDGs by 2030 requires nuclear. Nuclear science and technology meet nine of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, making investments in these sectors critical components to a prosperous tomorrow.
In Spain, where nuclear power supplies about 20 per cent of the grid, a combination of factors including premiums placed on renewable energy has resulted in sky-high electrical bills as prices rose by almost 60 percent in the six years from 2006-2012. The result of the increase is that millions of people, especially those on fixed incomes, have been left in the dark. Reliability and economics are key to improving the living conditions of people all over the world and the United Nation’s goals will hope to close the gap between energy security and the economics of electricity.
At the same time, energy choices must not further damage the environment with high carbon emissions.
The sector responsible for the greatest amount of emissions is electricity and heat production. The fast and effective decarbonizing of this sector will require heavy investments in all low-carbon technologies. The Union of Concerned Scientists, amongst many others, has voiced that “limiting the worst effects of climate change may also require other low or no-carbon energy sources, including nuclear power.”
As a low emitter, nuclear power produces virtually no greenhouse gas emissions or air pollutants and avoids an estimated 2 billion tons of carbon dioxide yearly. At the same time, nuclear power has the ability to meet the increasing energy demands of an expanding population in a sustainable, clean way.
Moving towards a successful 2030 may be challenging but one thing is clear, in order to get there nuclear power must be part of the solution.