The Christian Science Monitor reports that nuclear power is gaining greater acceptance among industrialized nations. According to the article:
Environmental groups and policymakers are softening their stances against nuclear power, some reluctantly, some whole-heartedly, and many with a new sort of humility in the face of today’s climate and energy realities.
That reality has two main components: First, climate change and governments’ need to dramatically lower greenhouse gas emissions. Although renewable sources of energy, such as wind and solar, have increased tremendously in the past decade, nuclear power is still the second largest source of carbon-free electricity in the world, behind hydropower. In advanced economies, it is number one.
Second, there is a growing strain on energy systems and electric grids. In Europe, the war in Ukraine has upended natural gas supplies and has resulted in a spike in electricity and other energy costs – a trend expected to get worse during the winter. Elsewhere, heat waves, droughts, and other extreme weather events that have been linked to climate change are putting new pressures on electric grids – another situation expected only to worsen.
The shifts are global:
- California’s legislature passed a bill last week extending the life of the state’s last operational nuclear plant, Diablo Canyon, where reactors had been scheduled to be decommissioned in 2024 and 2025.
- In Japan, which has eschewed nuclear power ever since a 2011 earthquake and tsunami triggered a meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has promised reinvestment in the energy source.
- The United Kingdom this year presented an energy plan that had nuclear power providing a quarter of its electricity.
- China is planning 150 new reactors in the next 15 years – more than the rest of the world has built in the past 35 years.
- And in Finland, the Green Party voted this year to endorse nuclear energy as a sustainable energy source.
And research from California and elsewhere shows that when nuclear power goes offline, it is often replaced with fossil-fuel generated power. The Nuclear Energy Institute says that in the United States alone, the use of nuclear power in 2020 prevented more than 471 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions – the equivalent of removing 100 million cars from the road.
But governments seem to be taking a “yes, and” approach. The new Inflation Reduction Act in the U.S., for instance, offers substantial tax credits for keeping nuclear power plants online, gives incentives for next-generation “advanced nuclear” projects, and also supports solar and wind projects. More than a dozen states in recent years have adjusted legislation to allow for advanced reactor technology, and many have recently reversed bans on the construction of new nuclear power facilities.