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Europe needs nuclear energy to stop climate change… and for many other reasons
Director General, FORATOM
Climate change is the single greatest challenge the world currently faces. All projections clearly indicate that if we don’t act urgently, it will soon be too late to stop global warming. The latest report by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change confirms that limiting global warming will require decisive actions, including the increased use of nuclear energy.
Nuclear can help the European Union meet its climate goals
Nuclear is a low-carbon source of energy that can help the European Union meet its climate goals in line with the Paris Agreement. It emits 30 times less CO2 than gas, and 65 times less than coal. The lifecycle CO2 emissions per kWh produced by nuclear reactors are comparable to those of wind and significantly lower than solar. Nuclear avoids 700 million tonnes of CO2 emissions per year. Also, nuclear could help decarbonise other sectors, by producing, for example, hydrogen for use in energy intensive industries or heating for households.
Nuclear is a sustainable source of energy, as it requires less raw materials than wind or solar and has a lower land use footprint which means a less of an impact on biodiversity and the natural landscape. In addition, it does not emit any harmful air pollutants. And whilst it does produce radioactive waste, the volumes remain very modest and are handled in a responsible manner.
A recent study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology states that without the contribution nuclear energy provides, the overall cost of achieving deep decarbonisation will increase significantly, mostly due to the need of excess generation capacities and storage infrastructure. The recent decrease in the costs of renewables is good news for the energy transition. At the same time, keeping a significant share of nuclear is essential to ensure security of energy supply at an affordable cost. The nuclear industry is of course aware of the challenges which it – like all other technologies – faces. It is also open to fact-based debates on the similarities and differences between different energy sources.
Keeping a significant share of nuclear is essential to ensure security of energy supply
Europe needs to recognise that nuclear energy is part of the solution to stop climate change. This has been recently confirmed by the European Commission which stated that nuclear energy will form the backbone of a 2050 carbon-free European power system, together with renewables. Thanks to its flexibility, nuclear is the perfect partner for renewables. Even better, nuclear also provides many other environmental, social and economic benefits!
With radiation fears overcome, advantages of nuclear energy prevail
Computer Scientist, Chairman of Nuklearia e. V.
Essentially, there has always been only one single argument against nuclear power: radiation. All other arguments cling on that.
Radiation effects are massively overstated
When the Fukushima accident occurred, my son lived in Sendai, Japan, 100 kilometers away from the power plant. I wondered what the radioactive releases meant to the people of Japan and to my son.
I learned that radiation biologists don’t detect any harm from acute effective radiation doses of 100 millisieverts (mSv) or less. That’s the state of science. Unfortunately, it’s not yet the state of radiation protection, which sets limits far less than that, let alone the state of general knowledge.
I advised my son to remain in Japan, and he did. It turned out that even in the most affected areas of Fukushima prefecture, people on average encountered doses of less than 10 mSv, with some exceptions of up to 35 mSv, distributed over weeks and months. Our body’s repair mechanisms can cope with such levels very well.
Obviously, radiation effects are massively overstated. Some regions in the world have significantly higher radiation levels than the Chernobyl or Fukushima exclusion zones. For example, in the Indian state of Kerala, radiation is up to 70 mSv per year. And Kerala has the highest longevity in India!
Nuclear is low-carbon, cheap and reliable
Once we have realized what radiation does (not) mean, we are open to nuclear energy’s advantages:
- Nuclear is low-carbon. That’s the most significant argument in the new debate on nuclear power. Nuclear emits as little CO2 as wind power and four times less than photovoltaics. It’s really that simple: Reducing carbon emissions requires low-carbon energy sources – especially the one that can make the biggest contributions. And please don’t mix up “low-carbon” with “renewable”! Biomass is carbon-neutral in theory, but not in practice. Nuclear is not renewable in theory, but it is in practice.
- Nuclear is reliable. Unlike solar and wind, it supplies electricity all the time. And it doesn’t require any (high-carbon) backup, when the sun doesn’t shine or the wind doesn’t blow.
- Nuclear is cheap. Admitted, a nuclear power plant is very expensive. However, once it is up and running, it provides cheap electricity for many decades.
- Nuclear saves nature. It doesn’t require huge areas of land, like solar and wind. It doesn’t require to industrialize our environment or to accept killing of birds and bats.
40 years of misinformation from Greenpeace and friends are enough!
Europe must quit nuclear power!
Spokesperson, Réseau “Sortir du nucléaire” (French network for nuclear phaseout)
Even a ‘regular’ work of nuclear power plants generates an important environmental impact. Uranium mining pollutes soils, irrevocably contaminates underground water and impacts people’s health. In the downstream process, the industry creates radioactive waste, a part of which will remain dangerous during a time longer than the one of entire human civilisations. From an ethical point of view, we cannot continue to stock this waste and we cannot leave this poisoned heritage to our future generations.
Nuclear has only a slight contribution to the fight against climate change
Furthermore, as repeated regularly by nuclear safety authorities, a possibility of a major accident with huge consequences cannot be excluded. European nuclear parcs are aging. Lately discovered cracks and defects (in France and Belgium for instance) aggravate this risk, while subcontractors in France are warning about reduced maintenance of the installations.
Nuclear power is sometimes wrongly presented as a solution to the climate change. France, the country in Europe with the most developed nuclear energy supply and it’s 58 nuclear reactors, continues to release 8 times too much greenhouse gases. The last IPCC’s report (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) shows that this technology is not indispensable to limit the global warming to 1,5°C. It also doubts of it’s development capacities and highlights it’s significant environmental impact. A study published by the Réseau Action Climat reminds that nuclear power has only a slight contribution to the fight against climate change, while the associated risks are important and the price is high. Moreover, it impedes the process of transition to a sober, efficient and renewable energy system – which is the solution pushed forward by the IPCC. In France, scenarios like the one proposed by Négawatt show that it is possible to phaseout nuclear power and answer the climate change challenge at the same time. Europe without coal and nuclear power is possible!
The consequences of a nuclear accident ignore borders
We often hear that the choice of nuclear power is a matter of national sovereignty. However, as proven by the accident in Chernobyl, the consequences of a nuclear accident ignore borders. In case of an accident in the nuclear plant of Cattenom, Luxembourg and Germany would suffer the consequences, even though both countries turned their backs on nuclear power. If a major accident happened in the Hungarian plant of Paks, the Danube would carry pollution down to Romania. In consequence, all States concerned by the risks must give up on this technology in order to effectively protect Europe from a nuclear accident.
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