Nuclear energy not feasible way to tackle climate crisis, former regulators say

It would be unlikely to make relevant contribution quickly enough, experts say

Zoe Tidman
Wednesday 26 January 2022 17:55 GMT
<p>Top experts from around the world warn nuclear energy poses a set of problems when trying to use it to combat climate crisis</p>

Top experts from around the world warn nuclear energy poses a set of problems when trying to use it to combat climate crisis

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Nuclear energy is not part of any feasible strategy that could be used to tackle climate change, former top officials from national regulators have said.

The experts said it was too costly, risky and unlikely to have a significant impact quickly enough.

The comments were made in a joint statement by Dr Gregory Jaczko, Professor Wolfgang Renneberg, Dr Bernard Laponche and Dr Paul Dorfman, who have been involved in government nuclear regulation and radiation protection levels in the US, Germany, France and the UK respectively.

The former top officials said they felt a “collective responsibility” to comment on whether nuclear energy could play a significant role in trying to tackle the climate crisis.

Nuclear energy has been suggested as a cleaner alternative to fossil fuels as its production does not produce greenhouse gas emissions.

But critics have raised concerns over safety and the high costs involved.

In their statement this month, the former regulators said nuclear energy was “neither clean, safe or smart” and was “extremely costly”.

The group - which includes the former chair of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the ex-chief of the French Agency for Energy Management - added: “Perhaps most importantly nuclear is just not part of any feasible strategy that could counter climate change.”

This was because this form of energy was “too costly” to make a relevant contribution to global energy supplies, “inherently risky” due to the potential for accidents and “unsustainable due to the unresolved problem of very long-lived radioactive waste”, they said.

The group - which includes former UK government scientific advisor Dr Dorfman - also said it was “militarily hazardous since newly promoted reactor designs increase the risk of nuclear weapons proliferation”.

Nuclear energy was also “unlikely to make a relevant contribution to necessary climate change mitigation” by the 2030s due to how long it takes to develop and build plants, the experts said.

Last year, the government gave the go-ahead for at least one large nuclear power plant - and possibly another - by 2040 as part of its plan to reach net-zero.

France also announced last autumn it would start building its first new nuclear reactors in decades under plans to curb emissions.

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