Nuclear power will not lead to a global energy revolution | The Weather Problem

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On March 11, 2011, Japan experienced a magnitude 9 earthquake and a 15-meter tsunami that caused a nuclear accident at the TEPCO nuclear power plant in Fukushima Daiichi. Three of the six reactors were affected, causing meltdowns and the release of large amounts of radioactive material into the environment.

Today, 13 years later, Japan is still dealing with the consequences of the disaster. Immediately after the earthquake, more than 160,000 people were evacuated. Of them, about 29,000 are still refugees.

Health problems from exposure to radioactivity are still a major concern for many, and environmental damage to land, water, agriculture, and fisheries is still evident. The cost of damages, including compensation, has been astronomical; $7bn has been spent every year since 2011, and work continues.

Last year, Japan’s plan to start pumping more than a million tons of wastewater into the Pacific Ocean. infection anxiety and anger, including among communities who depend on fishing for their livelihoods, from Fukushima to Fiji.

However, Japan and the rest of the world seem to have learned little from this devastating experience. On March 21, Belgium held its first meeting Nuclear Energy Summit it was attended by top world officials, including Japan’s Deputy Foreign Minister Masahiro Komura. The event was aimed at promoting the development, expansion and financing of nuclear energy research and operations.

The meeting was held after more than 20 countries, including Japan, announced plans to triple nuclear power by 2050 at last year’s UN Climate Change Conference (COP28).

All these developments contradict the growing evidence that nuclear power is not an efficient and safe alternative to fossil fuels.

Despite advances in waste storage technology, no foolproof method of dealing with nuclear waste has yet been developed and implemented. As nuclear power plants continue to produce radioactive waste, the potential for leaks, accidents, and diversions to nuclear weapons continues to pose risks to the environment, public health, and safety.

Nuclear power is also the lowest carbon energy to use, it is the most expensive and has the least potential in the short, medium and long term for greenhouse gas emissions. A recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) stated that the potential and cost-effectiveness of nuclear power to reduce emissions by 2030 was much lower than that of solar and wind power.

Large-scale power technology like nuclear power plants also cost billions of dollars, and take ten years to build due to strict safety regulations. Even the deployment of modular modular reactors (SMR) has a high cost. Late last year, the famous NuScale project funded by the US government to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars had to be abandoned due to high costs.

In addition, according to a report published by Greenpeace in 2023, even in the best case scenario and with the same investment, by 2050, the installation of wind and solar power could generate three times more electricity and four times more emissions. higher CO2 emissions compared to a water nuclear reactor at the same time.

And the climate crisis is not just about CO2 emissions. It’s about all kinds of environmental justice and democratic issues that need to be considered. And nuclear power does not have a good record in this regard.

For example, uranium mining – the first step in the production of nuclear energy – has been linked to habitat destruction, soil and water pollution, and adverse health effects for people near mining sites. The mining and processing of uranium requires a large amount of energy, which is often derived from non-renewable resources, which also complicates the environmental awareness of nuclear energy.

Nuclear power also centralizes technology, governance, and decision-making processes, placing the distribution of power in the hands of a few.

For an equal change of power, electricity solutions should not only be safe, but fairly accessible and used properly. While nuclear power plants require miles of pipelines, long-distance planning, and centralized management, the design and installation of solar panels and wind turbines is becoming increasingly common and easy to use.

If properly implemented, maintenance and recycling programs can address critical equipment and end-of-life issues. Solar and wind projects can create new jobs, boost local economies, and empower communities to take charge of their own energy futures instead of handing more money to the trillion-dollar fossil fuel industry.

Although the 2011 disaster in Fukushima may seem like a long time ago, its effects today on the health of its environment, people and communities are reminders that we should not be dangerously confused by the so-called promises of nuclear power.

We don’t have to switch from one broken system to another.

Rich countries have a responsibility to support the global economic reforms and provide sufficient funds for the use of renewable energy in poor countries. To make our world safe and fair, not only do we need to tax and phase out fossil fuels immediately, but we need to get renewable energy, like wind and solar, faster, bigger, and more efficient.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect Al Jazeera’s influence.

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