Nuclear Energy: Threat vs Economic Needs
Nuclear Energy: Threat vs Economic Needs
  • Reporter Park So-mang
  • 승인 2024.06.12 14:32
  • 댓글 0
이 기사를 공유합니다

▲Nuclear power plant / AP News
▲Nuclear power plant / AP News

  The hottest January ever recorded. The global temperature has surpassed the 1.5 degrees Celsius limit for over 12 months. In the 2015 Paris Agreement, nations agreed to limit the average global temperature rise by 1.5 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial times, acknowledging that going over this lower limit would lead to catastrophic events and critical loss of biodiversity. Well then, is it Doomsday?

  The world still has hope. When countries signed the Paris Agreement, they looked beyond short terms, prioritizing long-term sustainability over temporary fluctuations. The mean global temperature above 1.5 degrees, compared to the pre-industrial levels just for a day, a month, or even a year, does not mean a failure. However, there is no doubt we are getting closer to the threshold, where there is no way back. 

  With the urgent climate issue, the global trend is to shift to nuclear energy. While many countries emphasized the environment and implemented measures to increase the portion of renewable energy, renewables simply could not replace fossil fuels. Renewable energy like solar and wind power are vulnerable to weather conditions and not as efficient as oil or natural gas. On the other hand, harvesting nuclear energy is independent of weather and dispatchable like other fossil fuels. In addition, nuclear power is already the second-largest source of clean energy, which means many countries have the facilities and technology to produce nuclear energy. 

  France has long been a proponent of nuclear energy, rendering it a cornerstone of the country’s energy policy. Approximately 70% of the country’s electricity is generated from nuclear power, the highest percentage in the world. Today, France continues to advocate for nuclear energy as a means to meet its climate goals. Currently, 56 reactors are running, but the French government plans to build at least six more reactors by 2050. Aiming to triple production capacity, President Emmanuel Macron said at the 28th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28), “Nuclear energy is back.”

  The US also pledged to triple the nuclear energy production capacity by 2050 at COP28 along with Finland, Hungary, Morocco, Ukraine, the Republic of Korea. In March, President Joe Biden of the US signed the FY2024 spending bill that included more than 1.68 USD billion for the Office of Nuclear Energy (ONE). An additional 2.72 billion USD was allocated to construct the US’ independent nuclear fuel supply chain. The US and many other Western countries are fairly dependent on Russia for nuclear exports, so they are trying to reduce the dependency and construct a self-reliant nuclear fuel cycle. 

  Italy has a mixed stance on nuclear energy. First of all, all nuclear power plants have been shut down since 1990. After the Chernobyl disaster, the nuclear power referendum was held in 1987, and most citizens voted against nuclear energy. However, there were several efforts to bring back nuclear energy in Italy. In 2008, the Italian government planned for the development of nuclear energy; however, the June 2011 referendum stopped the government’s attempt to operate power plants. Yet, Italy has again shown its ambition for nuclear energy at the 2024 Brussels summit by signing the declaration. 

  On the other hand, Germany is one of the few countries strongly opposed to nuclear energy. Since the early 2000s, Germany has continuously reduced its dependency on nuclear energy, aiming to reach low carbon without radioactive waste. Although they could not shut down all nuclear power plants immediately, they gradually shut down reactors and finally closed all reactors on April 15, 2023. 

  Meanwhile, Korea has changed its stance on nuclear energy following a change in the ruling party. President Yoon Suk Yeol of Korea promised multiple pro-nuclear policies. At the 14th session of the policy debate in Changwon, Yoon talked about new nuclear development projects and enacting a law to speed up the growth of the nuclear energy industry. He also talked about tax benefits for nuclear-related businesses and investments. 

  The shift towards nuclear energy to combat climate change is gaining momentum worldwide, but it requires a balanced and cautious approach. A single mistake can end up in a catastrophic accident, as history teaches. Hence, the pursuit of zero-carbon emissions should not overshadow the need for safety and sustainability. Countries must implement robust safety protocols, advance technologies, and conduct comprehensive risk assessments. A diversified energy strategy that includes renewables can be an option for a more resilient and sustainable system.