Because of the serious nature of global climate change, many people are focused on renewable energy resources, such as solar cells and wind turbines, as a means of cutting global carbon emissions. Nuclear power is often left out of the discussion, but this is a mistake. Only by fully harnessing the potential of nuclear energy can humankind achieve a clean energy strategy that's effective and feasible in the near future.
Global warming is a problem that affects every country. Even those countries that meet their green energy targets will be affected by the areas of the world that fail to do so, which is why multilateral actions and commitments are so crucial. The burning of fossil fuels is unsustainable in the long term, but the current renewable infrastructure isn't sufficient to totally replace such dirty means of generating electricity. This is where nuclear fits into the picture: By replacing coal- and oil-burning plants with nuclear facilities, we can reduce emissions by much more than we could if nuclear were left off the table.
The Paris COP21 meeting is about to get underway on November 30th. Representatives of more than 190 countries will be discussing and signing agreements regarding the steps to be taken to combat global warming. The current international framework, which includes the Bonn agreement, often penalizes the use of nuclear energy. Unless these provisions are revised to promote the use of nuclear power, the signatory states will be shooting themselves in the foot as it's widely believed that the 2050 global warming targets are unreachable without a significant growth in the nuclear energy industry.
Nuclear energy is incredibly safe. When disasters and mishaps do occur, they're often front-page news, which leads many to overestimate the dangers of nuclear power. The truth is that the number of accidental deaths over the entire history of the nuclear energy industry measures in the thousands. Other types of power generation have workplace injuries and death all the time, and an article in Forbes stated that nuclear was the safest energy source of all in terms of mortality rate per kilowatt-hour of electricity produced.
In addition to being extremely safe, nuclear installations are also very reliable. They don't depend on weather conditions or the hour of the day to keep producing electricity steadily. This makes it easy to manage their output because the grid infrastructure doesn't need to do a lot of complicated load-balancing or time-shifting of the electrical output of nuclear plants.
Though the waste products of nuclear reactors are highly toxic, they are very small in quantity. Unlike the pollutants emitted by other types of energy systems, those generated through nuclear processes can be easily contained and overseen without too much effort. The emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from nuclear energy are almost nil. There are efforts underway to reduce the impact of even the tiny waste currently created by nuclear power plants. New reactor designs may allow nuclear waste to be consumed as fuel for next-generation reactors.
According to Alberta Energy, the electricity sector contributed about 31 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions in 2013 from the burning of fossil fuels. It's important to reduce this figure if we have any hope of turning the tide of climate change before it's too late. A failure to expand nuclear power, which is already a proven green technology, could have disastrous consequences. Nuclear must be treated the same way as solar, wind, geothermal, hydroelectric and other renewables so that we can take advantage of all the available opportunities for reducing harmful emissions.
Until the renewable infrastructure grows to a point where it can totally take over from old-school, fossil-fuel-based power plants, nuclear energy is the only viable means of sufficiently tacking the problems posed by climate change. Only by ramping up our use of this safe, efficient, clean power source, can we ensure a healthy environment for succeeding generations.