The power shortfall in Asia and Europe is a result of the ongoing transition towards green energy. To overcome the power gap, countries boosted their dependency on fossil fuels more than before rather than relying on pricey renewables like wind and solar. Globally, the discussions on nuclear energy have shown an increasing trend, and the energy share and investments continue to rise. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), achieving zero greenhouse emissions by 2050 would require doubling the current nuclear power share.
To achieve the net-zero target, the countries like the US, UK, China, France, India, and Russia have boosted their investment in the nuclear sector by many folds. The rise in research and development of advanced reactors and innovative designs of small nuclear systems are into the testing stage. These types of reactors are expected to be relatively cheap and easy to build with higher power production at a very reasonable price.
Bill Gates’s Terra Power LLC received $80 million (about the cost of a high-end private jet) from the US Department of Energy to develop Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) and planned to install the first unit in 2028 at Wyoming coal-fired plant. Companies like NuScale Power LLC are also expected to install a reactor in Idaho in 2029. Rolls Royce and a group of companies have also secured a total of $690 million consignments to develop SMRs last year by the Qatar government and the UK government.
In Europe, the prices of electricity are skyrocketing and induce the concerns of dependency on Russia for natural gas supply. The European Union is accepting nuclear energy and agreed to consider it a renewable source of energy. Eastern European countries which are highly dependent on coal are looking at Russian reactors as alternatives. Poland started developing new reactors partnering with NuScale and Électricité de France (EDF). France already produces 70% of its electricity through nuclear power. They are also funding EDF for small modular reactors and advanced reactor technology. Due to some setbacks created by old reactors, the Maintenance and upgrades are done on regular basis. Germany has decommissioned all-remaining reactors and totally depends on Russian natural gas and other sources of energy. As a consequences electricity prices soar; frequent power cuts and resulting in the highest producer of carbon in the European Union. Following the footsteps of Germany, Belgium decommissioned nuclear reactors but will continue to fund developing advanced small nuclear reactor projects.
In Asia, China planned to build 150 new nuclear reactors over the next 15 years and planning to spend $440 billion with an aim to surpass the US to become the biggest producer of nuclear energy in the world. China is also transferring its technology and expertise to developing countries. India has a robust plan for nuclear power and is expanding its fleet of nuclear reactors by adding 10 new reactors in 2030. Also, India is developing indigenous fast breeder reactors and more advanced heavy water reactor. Moreover, Japan is planning to produce 22% (from 5% in 2020) of the electricity through nuclear by 2030. It is a courageous step by a country that witnessed the Fukushima disaster in 2011 and decided to completely shut down the remaining reactors.
To combat climate change and reduce the dependency on fossil fuel-powered plants, more nuclear reactors are required. There is no doubt nuclear power is relatively expensive, but it is the best alternative to the cost of the disaster looming upon our heads that we cannot afford.