The world finally woke up

Tim Yeo
Tim Yeo Chairman New Nuclear Watch Institute

Wake up world

In 2021 the world finally woke up and smelt the coffee. Scientists have warned for 25 years that greenhouse gas emissions must be cut immediately to halt global heating. Until recently however most people, including nearly all government ministers and many business leaders, have buried their heads in the sand.

COP26 prompted an overdue reality check. It’s now beyond dispute that net zero must be reached no later than mid-century. Gradually the human species is realising that its survival depends on taking action on a scale and at a speed never previously contemplated, let alone achieved. At COP26 it also became clear that the updated national plans are not yet ambitious enough to get us anywhere near net zero.

Unless this action is taken now hundreds of millions of people will start fleeing homes which have become too hot or too flooded to live in before the end of this century. The cost of this action, and the disruption it causes, will increase substantially if significant progress isn’t made before 2030.

The good news is there’s still time to prevent catastrophe. Both the technologies and the resources needed to solve the problem already exist (though future innovations may help enormously when they are available). All that’s lacking is the will power.

Nuclear’s big opportunity

All this creates a huge opportunity for nuclear energy. By helping to decarbonise electricity generation nuclear can set an example to the energy industry and many other industries including transport, construction, steel, cement and agriculture, all of which must travel towards the same net zero goal.

Only two countries France and Sweden have ever cut fossil fuel consumption as quickly as every developed country must now do. In the wake of the 1974 oil crisis both did so by massive and rapid investment in nuclear capacity.

NNWI in action

During 2021 NNWI has promoted wider recognition of nuclear as an essential part of the global solution to climate change through our regular webinars. These feature expert presenters from all over the world and enable the online audiences to question speakers and engage in lively discussion.

Reports published by NNWI in 2021 included “Energy Security in the Age of Net-Zero Ambitions and the System Value of Nuclear Power”. This shed new light on how nuclear can maintain and strengthen energy security as energy systems decarbonise.

In November NNWI hosted, jointly with the World Nuclear Association, a well-attended evening reception at COP26 in Glasgow. This brought together many leading personalities from the nuclear industry and the academic world.

Yes To Nuclear

In February NNWI also launched the Yes to Nuclear initiative jointly with the support of our partners Nuclear 21, the Nuclear Innovation Alliance and the World Nuclear Transport Institute. Our media partner for Yes to Nuclear is New Europe, the independent weekly paper which brings European news and analysis to an international audience.

Yes to Nuclear makes the important but often overlooked wider case for nuclear by highlighting the benefits which nuclear delivers beyond its long-established role as the only supplier of reliable large scale very low carbon baseload electricity. Our monthly series of Yes to Nuclear Perspectives showed how the impact of nuclear directly promotes eight of the UN Sustainable Development Goals and indirectly promotes the other nine.

The renaissance of nuclear power

An important landmark in the spring of 2021 was the publication of the report of the European Commission’s Joint Research Council. This ended the Commission’s traditional ambivalence by strongly endorsing nuclear on safety, health and environmental grounds.

Looking ahead to 2022 NNWI believes that the prospects for nuclear are now better than at any time in this century. The tired old debate about whether to invest in renewables or nuclear has largely been replaced by a common-sense recognition that both are needed and the faster capacity can be ramped up the better.

COP26’s first formal acknowledgement that coal must be phased out was welcome. The progress made in facilitating greater linkage and compatibility of carbon trading systems and the wider use of carbon pricing is also extremely positive for nuclear.

NNWI looks forward to working with all our friends around the world in 2022 to encourage the nuclear renaissance which will strengthen humanity in its urgent fight against climate change.

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