Guest essay by Eric Worrall
The International Atomic Energy Agency has decided to push harder to promote climate change as a reason to embrace nuclear power.
What Can Nuclear Technology Offer to Address Climate Change: Conclusions of the Scientific Forum
IAEA Office of Public Information and Communication
Sep 21 2018
Mitigating greenhouse gas emissions through low-carbon electricity, offering methods to monitor the impact of emissions on oceans and soils, and helping countries adapt to increasingly erratic weather – these are some of the areas in which nuclear technology can offer proven solutions to address some of today’s most pressing climate-related challenges.
Over two days, presenters from over 20 countries showed that nuclear technology must be part of the solution to climate change, and public awareness of this contribution should be raised. This article summarizes some of the highlights of the discussions.
In the first session looking at the role of nuclear power in mitigating CO2 emissions, speakers discussed the importance of this low-carbon energy source from the perspective of countries already using it and those considering it as part of their energy mix. The session began with a close look at the Paris Agreement and the essential role nuclear power has to play in order for the targets set by the Agreement to be met. Renowned climate scientist Tom Wigley argued for the inclusion of nuclear power in meeting climate targets: “We need to produce energy in a way that doesn’t essentially produce carbon dioxide and other gasses that affect the climate, and there are a number of ways that we can do that,” he said. “The most important way is through nuclear energy because nuclear energy can produce clean energy all the time.”
The panel concluded that, in two of today’s most pressing climate related challenges, namely energy and food security, nuclear technology can play an essential role. The importance of continuing to raise public awareness of this contribution, as well as of the role of the IAEA to assist Member States in accessing the peaceful applications of nuclear energy, particularly through capacity building, was highlighted.
I think it is a mistake for the IAEA to go full climate alarmist.
I doubt most greens will ever embrace nuclear power. While there are exceptions like Dr. Tom Wigley and Dr. James Hansen, the green agenda in most cases seems to be much broader than simply switching to renewables, they also seem to want some level of de-industrialisation, to reduce our resource use impact on the planet. Nuclear power wildly conflicts with this agenda by providing a means for us to decarbonise the global economy without making any lifestyle sacrifices.
For example, in 2015 Greenpeace has stated they would even oppose nuclear fusion if it ever becomes a viable option – they think nuclear fusion research money should be spent on renewables.
On the other side of the fence, the new IAEA policy of going full climate concern risks alienating Conservatives, many of whom have been staunch supporters of nuclear power.
Pushing climate risk as a reason to embrace nuclear power might seem an obvious strategy, but with the climate movement rapidly falling apart, and with green radicals fanatically opposed to any form of nuclear power, no matter how safe, I doubt this new strategy will help the IAEA advance their pro-nuclear agenda.
Update (EW): Fixed a typo in the title