Is the world ready to say “Hello Nuclear”?

The COP 21 summit in Paris has led to a renewed interest (a sort of) towards reducing the carbon emissions. Greenhouse gas reduction has got a boost again. Simultaneously, the volatility in the oil and commodities market continues to bother each and all. These days the other sources of energy (apart from oil & gas) seems to have taken a passive role in terms of news coverage. The lifting of ban in US exports of crude keeps funneling the interest of one and all in this sector.

The importance of nuclear in the energy mix of the world cannot be overlooked. Nuclear Power can play an enhanced role in reducing greenhouse emissions. Nuclear Power can serve as a country’s / region’s clean base load power. This would help reduce the global dependence on fossil fuels for power generation. There are many advantages in using Nuclear in terms of less greenhouse gas emissions, higher energy produced per unit of fuel, reliable, compact, competitive and practically inexhaustible.

The influence of nuclear power as a clean energy source had weakened aftermath Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011 due to safety concerns. There were debates all over the world and many countries took a decision to shut down their nuclear plants as well. These may be on account of many misconceptions and misinformation. Nuclear Power is safer than other forms of energy as indicated by past records / incidents till date (there has been some occasional mishaps though).

Generating electricity using nuclear is quite costly than other fossil fuels but the catch here is that the carbon costs are not accounted for and simply dumped into atmosphere. If those costs are accounted, no other fuel will seem to be very cheap than nuclear.

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2As the nuclear industry faces rising capital costs and increasing delays at its large scale construction projects, the answer can be the small modular reactors (SMRs).

As quoted by IAEA Deputy Director General Mikhail Chudakov “SMRs can offer important advantages for nuclear newcomer countries, particularly those with small electric grids, with less-developed infrastructure and limited investment capabilities”.

Relatively low capital costs, flexibility of deployment and potential for energy security are some of the factors that can be looked upon especially the countries new to nuclear power.

There are challenges with respect to perception about nuclear fuel and wastes but the argument can be that in many parts of the world having high uranium concentration, people are living with no adverse ill effects.

Another aspect is the type of reactors currently in use which are mostly the Light Water Reactors (LWR) which has issues related to safety. Molten Salt Reactors are a step towards right direction to erase concerns on costs as well as safety. They do not have the safety issues or waste problems of Light Water Reactors (LWR).Molten Salt Reactors use no water, hence no chance of steam or hydrogen explosion. As a result expensive steam containment components are not required. Thorium which is much abundant than uranium can be used in Molten Salt Reactors which will also aid in the energy efficiency in terms of output. The fuel usage efficiency is much higher in Molten Salt Reactors than Light Water Reactors (LWR) which will be an advantage with respect to optimum waste management.3

According to World Nuclear Association data, in the year 2015 -10 new reactors began supplying electricity and eight were permanently shut down. Uranium Prices which took a beating after the Fukushima disaster, are recovering and looking better for several reasons.

Ending 2015 the government in Japan has given a go ahead to its nuclear operations. China has opened a nuclear reactor in its ethnic minority region. Turkey has started construction of its first nuclear plant. Even the major petroleum producers like UAE are banking on nuclear projects for balancing their energy needs. Civil nuclear co-operation deal is being signed between countries like India – Japan, India – Australia, are a step towards bringing greater contribution of nuclear in the world energy mix.

Today, approx. 85% of the world’s energy comes from fossil fuels. This demand for energy will increase by more than 50% in the next 20-30 years. To address the issue of climate change, the existing as well as the upcoming energy systems need to be made carbon free. The main challenge is to replace coal and petroleum, the two major fossil fuels and main players in global emissions. Nuclear energy can play an important role in substituting them along with renewables.

Source: https://bravenewclimate.files.wordpress.com/2010/03/wna_need.jpg4

The challenge of replacing fossil fuels by nuclear in the energy mix seems quite large from a perspective of an energy source which is already looked upon with lot of skepticism. Public opinion and political will has to be forged along with proper scientific and economic knowledge and guidance to overcome the challenges towards fulfilment of this objective. Time is the dimension which needs to be factored along this journey towards this change as the implications will be overarching.

The clock has already started ticking. It is time for some action than retrospection. Nuclear energy needs to be embraced by all to save the planet from effects of climate change.

So the question is whether the world is ready to say “Hello Nuclear”?

References:

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the company (Markets and Markets).

Markets and Markets:  http://www.marketsandmarkets.com/AboutUs-8.html ; Date: January, 2016
Contact Details: sales@marketsandmarkets.com ; Tel: 1-888-600-6441; Author: Kaushik Chatterjee

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