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UN organization: Climate goals cannot be achieved without nuclear power

According to analyzes by a UN organization, the international climate targets cannot be achieved if nuclear power is excluded. Nuclear power is a low-carbon source of energy that has produced 74 gigatons of CO in the past 50 years2-Emissions, according to a report by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE). Only hydropower played a greater role in avoiding such emissions.

While currently in the UNECE region (Europe, North America and the countries of the former Soviet Union) more than half of the electricity is still generated with fossil fuels, 20 percent is from nuclear power; this in turn has a 43 percent share in low-carbon electricity generation. Time is running out to replace fossil fuels with sustainable energy sources in order to implement the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development without taking nuclear power into account, according to the UNECE report.

The UN Economic Commission refers to the report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published in 2018, in which, among other things, scenarios were assumed in which nuclear power generation would grow on average 2.5 times higher than today’s level by 2050. The UNECE believes that nuclear power has the potential to be used increasingly with other low-carbon energy sources in a future decarbonised energy mix.

According to the UNECE, nuclear power is a “cost-effective option to generate electricity for many parts of the world”. Inexpensive funding and market frameworks could reduce the burden of high upfront costs of $ 5 billion to $ 10 billion for large nuclear power plants. Future “microreactors” and small modular reactors (SMR) would likely be easier to finance. The UNECE admits that nuclear power poses “specific risks such as radiological accidents and radioactive waste management” that need to be anticipated and dealt with.

Since nuclear power plants not only produce electricity but also heat, the UNECE believes that they also offer opportunities to decarbonise energy-intensive industries. There is potential to increase low-carbon or carbon-free steel, hydrogen and chemical production to decarbonise hard-to-cut sectors.

According to the UNECE, more than 30 percent of electricity is currently generated in eleven countries using nuclear power. 20 countries are currently operating nuclear power plants, new reactors are being built or developed in 15 countries, and seven are new to nuclear power. Canada, the Czech Republic, Finland, France, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, the Russian Federation, Ukraine, Great Britain and the USA have expressly stated that nuclear power will play an important role in reducing their emissions in the future will.

Belgium and Germany have announced that they will phase out nuclear power in 2025 and 2023, respectively. They are among those countries that consider the risks of nuclear incidents and accidents to be unacceptable and that long-term management of radioactive waste is problematic.

292 reactors are currently in operation in the UNECE region. Since 2000, over 70 reactors have been shut down there for political, economic or technical reasons. Most of these are at least partially replaced by electricity generated from fossil fuels. The International Energy Agency and the International Atomic Energy Agency see it as urgent in the fight against climate change to act against the decommissioning of nuclear power plants.

Three main classes of nuclear power engineering are listed in the UNECE report (PDF): large gigawatt reactors, small modular reactors (SMRs) and microreactors. According to the UNECE, large reactors are mature, already available technologies. SMR, as advocated by Bill Gates, for example, are under development but are rapidly approaching commercial use; Such a system is already supplying remote communities on a ship off the north coast of Russia. Some microreactor designs could be available in the US and Canada within five years.

The German Federal Office for Nuclear Waste Management considers SMR to be problematic. In order to provide the currently required electrical power worldwide with SMR, a thousand to ten thousand such systems would have to be built. Questions about safety, transport, dismantling as well as interim and final storage, as well as proliferation, have not yet been clarified.

According to the latest report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the global temperature rise over land areas has already reached 1.53 ° C. 107 researchers from 53 countries warn that the number, duration and intensity of heat waves and droughts will increase in the coming decades, not least around the Mediterranean.

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Unit C of the nuclear power plant in Gundremmingen, Bavaria, has been in operation since March 1984. Block A was in operation from 1967 to 1977. Unit B, which went online in 1984, was shut down on December 31, 2017, and Unit C – also commissioned in 1984 – is to follow in 2021. (Image:


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2021-08-13 13:50:22

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