Nuclear Power Needs to Double to Curb Global Warming

From Scientific America

Experts suggest that without nuclear power the world has little chance of restraining global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius.

Since the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident in Japan chilled global attitudes toward nuclear power, the world has been slowly reconciling its discomfort with nuclear and the idea that it may have a role to play in reducing greenhouse gas emissions to tackle climate change.

The International Energy Agency and the Nuclear Energy Agency suggest in a report released Thursday that nuclear will have such a significant role to play in climate strategy that nuclear power generation capacity will have to double by 2050 in order for the world to meet the international 2°C (3.6°F) warming goal.

With fossil fuels growing as sources of electricity across the globe, the IEA sees nuclear power as a stable source of low-carbon power helping to take polluting coal-fired plants offline.

To accomplish the needed CO2 emissions cuts to keep warming no greater than 2°C, the IEA says global nuclear power generation capacity needs to increase to 930 gigawatts from 396 gigawatts by 2050. With nearly 100 nuclear reactors, the U.S. has more nuclear power plants than any other country, representing 105 gigawatts of production. France, Japan, Russia and China round out the top five countries using nuclear power.

Globally, nuclear energy is already making a comeback with 72 nuclear reactors now under construction worldwide, mainly in Asia.

“This marked the greatest number of reactors being built in 25 years,” IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven said in a statement. “Nuclear energy also remains the second-largest source of low-carbon electricity worldwide. And, indeed, if we are to meet our collective climate goals, nuclear energy is critical.”

All forms of low-carbon energy must be employed to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, she said.

That conclusion is consistent with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s findings last year that global carbon dioxide emissions need to be capped at 450 parts per million in order to prevent warming greater than 2°C, Robert N. Stavins, director of the Project on Climate Agreements at Harvard University and a drafting author of the IPCC’s Working Group III Report, said.

By Bobby Magill and Climate Central

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