Nuclear? Yes, thanks

As a fervent defender of the planet and the environment, I know that many people consider it hypocritical that I am also in favor of nuclear energy, vilified by any self-respecting environmental NGO. However, given the enormous urgency to decarbonize the economy and the advances that this source of energy has experienced in recent years, I can only rejoice at the recent announcement by France to bet on it again.

For the country it makes a lot of sense. Not only is it Europe’s leading proponent and producer of nuclear energy, contributing nearly 70% of its domestically produced electricity in 2020. Furthermore, the announcement comes days after the European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyenreported that it is studying that investment in new nuclear power plants begins to be classified as ‘green’ in the European territory imminently during COP26.

Game, set and match for France’s historical confidence in atomic energy, compared to the positions of other European countries such as Germany and Spain, which have been gradually abandoning it for years, despite the fact that the useful life of our operating reactors could still be extended for several more years. The reason? Well, there are several, and I don’t think any pro-nuclear expert can deny them, nor do I pretend to.

The famous disasters Chernobyl (Ukraine) and more recently Fukushima (Japan), leave no room for doubt about the risks posed by nuclear energy. And if the danger wasn’t enough, the waste it produces is so radioactive that it must be buried in concrete cemeteries for decades. However, the huge differences in the number of deaths (only one in the Japanese case) and the extent of each of these accidents also show that technology has not stopped improving.

Thanks to decades of research and investment in R&D, small modular reactors, whose smallest parts can be produced in normal factories and at scale to reduce costs; those of advanced fission, whose design is much safer than the traditional ones; and the historic promise of nuclear fusion, which would leave almost no residue; They have been reviving support for the sector for years.

the billionaires Bill Gates and Warren Buffet they are among the most prominent figures in the promotion of this energy source, and the value of the main companies producing uranium (the necessary raw material) as well as that of the companies responsible for the nuclear power plants themselves continues to increase.

But why support an energy source that is still dangerous and prohibitively expensive? The answer lies in climate change. My green heart would love for the world to be powered only by 100% renewable and clean energy. But my scientific brain knows that an energy transition of this type will not only be extremely expensive and take decades, it could also be inefficient given the intermittence of renewables and the limited advances in storage and transmission systems.

Such an energy transition will not only be extremely expensive and take decades, it could also be inefficient.

If we want to continue to have reliable energy sources that do not contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, the most realistic answer is nuclear. Is it a perfect font? Not at all, but, as in almost everything in this life, sometimes you have to make certain sacrifices to achieve a greater good.

The energy that stops being produced with each plant closed must be compensated in some way. And if this is done through renewables, then they cannot be used to replace fossil fuels, which are the ones we really need to eradicate.

And let’s see who is the handsome one who goes to countries like the India to say that it has to reduce its energy consumption and its emissions when millions of its citizens still lack electricity (remember that, historically, the main responsible for the greenhouse gases accumulated in the atmosphere are Europe and the United States).

I could be naive and believe that one day I will see a world 100% wind, solar, geothermal and hydroelectricbut i know that it is impossible. So, unlike many environmental groups and experts, I prefer to be realistic and assume that while nuclear power is not the panacea that some lobby of the sector try to sell us, maybe it is the least worst of the options, regardless of who is upset.

I hope that the Government of Spain and society take note: you can defend the environment and support nuclear energy at the same time without being called a hypocrite.


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