The difficult topic of nuclear energy and climate change

Climate change and nuclear energy

There are few more difficult topics for those of us on the left, than the role of nuclear energy in fighting climate change.

Growing up during the Cold War, many lefties cut their teeth campaigning against nuclear weapons. But, a second existential threat of climate change is prompting a fresh discussion on nuclear energy

The International Energy Agency says nuclear has 413 gigawatts of capacity operating in 32 countries, avoiding 1.5 gigatonnes of greenhouse gas emissions annually, equivalent to 180 billion cubic metres of gas demand.

Under its Net Zero Emissions by 2050 scenario, the IEA sees the nuclear industry doubling capacity by 2050, if it can deal with current cost challenges. And, at eight per cent of total energy production, playing a supporting role, alongside gas, in a world dominated by renewables.

Climate campaigners accurately cite the IEA as saying the world doesn’t need any new long-lead time upstream gas projects. But, the IEA also says this becomes difficult without nuclear.

In Australia, the push for nuclear energy isn’t helped by some of its strongest advocates being long term opponents of other forms of climate action. 

Irrespective, in wind, solar and gas rich WA, we shouldn’t need nuclear to achieve our energy security and climate change goals. But, there will be a growing global market for our uranium. Which will be difficult for the left to reconcile, in itself.


This article also appeared in The West Australian newspaper.


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