Planning The Future of Energy: Renewables vs Nuclear

October 6, 2020

In recent decades, nuclear energy has been approached with some cautious optimism as a bridge between fossil-fuel consumption and renewable energy production. Although controversial for their dangerous properties, radioactive elements such as uranium and plutonium have the capacity to unleash massive amounts of energy when properly harnessed. However, even if you can ignore the health hazards, recent studies by the University of Sussex Business School and the ISM International School of Management are showing that prioritizing investment into nuclear before renewables is a mistake in the long run in terms of carbon emissions and the economy. Their research shows that "nuclear energy programs around the world tend not to deliver sufficient carbon emission reductions and so should not be considered an effective low carbon energy source." Not only are carbon emissions higher than renewables, but research also indicates that these two industries do not co-exist and co-develop well, meaning a country would essentially have to choose on direction or the other.

Professor of Energy Policy in the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU), Benjmin K Sovacool, states that "The evidence clearly points to nuclear being the least effective of the two broad carbon emissions abatement strategies, and coupled with its tendency not to co-exist well with its renewable alternative, this raises serious doubts about the wisdom of prioritizing investment in nuclear over renewable energy. Countries planning large-scale investments in new nuclear power are risking suppression of greater climate benefits from alternative renewable energy investments". So while Nuclear has marginally lower emissions compared to it's fossil fuel counterparts, this diversion away from the long term, renewable solutions could cause more damage than good in the long term mission to reduce the emissions that drive climate change.

One of the key takeaways behind these findings suggests that the transition to renewable energy should not include nuclear energy as a crutch. As put by Andy Stirling, Professor of Science and Technology Policy at the University of Sussex Business School, said: "This paper exposes the irrationality of arguing for nuclear investment based on a 'do everything' argument. Our findings show not only that nuclear investments around the world tend on balance to be less effective than renewable investments at carbon emissions mitigation, but that tensions between these two strategies can further erode the effectiveness of averting climate disruption."

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