The deployment of advanced nuclear technologies is anticipated to be part of the actions required to mitigate global climate change. The successful deployment of these new technologies, like all new infrastructure projects, will be more successful if the projects have strong public support. Successful deployment of energy infrastructure correlates with thoughtful approaches to equitable energy transitions.
Not only will the world need to replace or retrofit existing fossil fuel energy infrastructure, but total energy consumption will grow significantly. Even without explicit climate policy, demand for electricity will at least double by 2050, simply based on projected economic growth. With a focus on deep decarbonization, electricity demand will likely triple or quadruple by 2050, due to an increased need for electrification of transportation, industry, and residential heating.
While technocratic models can tell us how much energy infrastructure needs to be built and even where, they come up short on how to actually get things built in the real world. This is where there is a growing need for expertise from other disciplines like public policy, sociology, science, and technology studies.
For these reasons, there has been a growing consensus among climate advocates and policy-makers to shift towards a climate policy framework referred to as Standards, Investment, and Justice (SIJ).
Importantly, as opposition to renewables and transmission has grown in recent decades, there is a need to develop just and equitable processes for siting and deployment across the energy sector. Here, there might be some lessons that nuclear can share, from its own failures and more recent successes. This study will conclude with recommendations for how to incorporate social sciences into engineering standards for clean energy deployment.
Read the full study “Social License in the Deployment of Advanced Nuclear Technology,” by J.R. Lovering, S.H. Baker and T.R. Allen, published at MDPI on July 16, 2021.