Environment

U.S. leads coalition to triple nuclear power by 2050 in effort to address climate change

U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry participates in an event on women’s role in building a climate-resilient world, at COP28 World Climate Summit, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, December 4, 2023. 
Amr Alfiky | Reuters

The United States and more than 20 other countries plan to triple nuclear power by 2050 to achieve net-zero carbon emissions and limit climate change.

“Nuclear power that adheres to the highest standards of safety, sustainability, security, and non-proliferation has a key role to play in keeping 1.5 C within reach,” U.S. Climate Envoy John Kerry said in a statement issued over the weekend at the U.N. Climate Conference in Dubai.

Other major economies that signed on to the agreement include Canada, the world’s second-largest uranium producer; France, a global leader in nuclear energy; the United Kingdom; and Japan, which suffered a devastating nuclear accident in 2011 triggered by an earthquake and tsunami.

The declaration is the most concrete step taken yet by major nations to place nuclear power at the center of the push to transition to clean energy.

Interest in nuclear is booming worldwide amid growing recognition that a more dependable source of clean electricity will be needed to support the rapidly growing role of wind and solar in power grids. Nuclear is one of the few clean energy sources that can provide power without interruption when wind and solar are not available due to weather conditions.

“Studies confirm that the goal of global net zero carbon emissions can only be reached by 2050 with swift, sustained and significant investment in nuclear energy,” the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Mariano Grossi, said in a statement in Dubai on Friday.

The head of the International Energy Agency, Fatih Birol, said last month that nuclear energy is making a “very strong comeback,” but government support is needed for projects.

Nuclear power capacity needs to more than double from 417 gigawatts in 2022 to more than 900 gigawatts in 2050 to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by that year, according to an IEA report published in October.

Nuclear capacity increased 40% worldwide in 2022 with China, Finland, Korea and Pakistan leading the way, according to the IEA report.

More than 40% of the 61 nuclear plants currently under construction are in China, according to the World Nuclear Association. India and Russia are also investing heavily in nuclear power.

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