Around 25% of electricity in the EU is generated by nuclear power. For some people, that figure is too high. Others, however, argue that nuclear is a vital part of the energy mix if we are to prevent catastrophic climate change. The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Grossi, argues that nuclear should be seen as complementing renewable energy, not being in competition with it.
Critics of nuclear energy argue it is unsafe and expensive. The 2011 Fukushima disaster massively shook confidence in nuclear technology. The meltdown at the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant was the worst since Chernobyl in Ukraine, 25 years earlier. Nuclear plants are also expensive to set up and decommission, and the costs of storing radioactive waste (effectively indefinitely) also have to be considered.
Supporters of nuclear, however, argue we need to make use of all the energy sources available to us during the transition to renwable energy, because renewables by themselves aren’t yet ready to take over. As Germany phases out nuclear energy, it is replacing it with energy imports and electricity from domestic coal-fired plants. The alternatives to nuclear are coal and natural gas – including unconventional gas resources – and these would be (over the long-run) much more polluting and damaging than nuclear.
What do our readers think? We had a comment sent in from Andrea saying: “We need to fight climate change. That means we need nuclear power more than ever.” Is Andrea right?
To get a response, we put Vera’s comment to Leena Ylä-Mononen, Director General at Finland’s Ministry of the Environment. What would she say?
For another perspective, we also put Andrea’s comment to Matthias Duwe, Head of Climate at the Ecologic Institute, a Berlin-based think tank focusing on environmental research and policy analysis. How would he respond?
Can we tackle climate change without nuclear power? Or will we need to keep all options open to solve the climate crisis? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!