Welcoming new members of the nuclear family

Belarus and the UAE both started producing nuclear energy for their citizens for the first time in 2021. Belarus’ Ostrovets station saw its first reactor enter service, with a second commencing its start up, while the UAE’s 4-unit Barakah plant put one reactor into service, with a second not far behind in the process.  As such, these two countries become the newest members of the global nuclear family.

Milt Caplan, the chair of the World Nuclear Association Economics Working Group, the president of MZConsulting and a 40-year veteran of the nuclear industry, wrote “Welcome nuclear newcomer countries to the nuclear family,” to honor this occasion and remind us of how important nuclear power is for those countries that do not have readily available hydro to provide the foundation for a 100% clean energy grid.

Of the thirty countries which have achieved 50% clean energy or better, nuclear power plays a role in sixteen.  Of those nuclear energy produced a majority of the clean power for 9 of 16, including France, where it provides 70% of the country’s energy, Finland, Slovakia, Belgium, Ukraine, Hungary and Bulgaria. Hydro provided the majority of clean energy in 12 of the 30 countries. In contrast, wind provides the majority of clean energy in only three countries, Denmark, Lithuania and Portugal.  Solar had none.

There are many countries, especially northern countries, which just do not get good solar radiation. Similarly, many countries are not blessed the abundant hydropower resources of Iceland, Norway, Ecuador or Venezuela. Some, like Germany, get only 7 or 8% of their energy from solar and 3 or 4% from hydro.  Yet, with another 46% of its energy coming from fossil sources, Germany is attacking its own clean nuclear power and has shuttered most of its nuclear, leaving just 15% nuclear. Not only are such ideologically-based actions laying waste to critical climate assets and squandering money invested over decades to clean their air and electricity, such actions are own-goals powered by inaccurate risk assessments that simply expand demand for far more lethal, and carbon-emitting fossil fuels.

Fortunately, the world is moving in the other direction. There are currently 32 countries that have deployed nuclear energy, counting Belarus and the UAE. According to Caplan’s report, there are now about 30 other countries looking into using nuclear power for the first time, with three, Bangladesh, Egypt and Turkey, already at work constructing their new plants. These countries decisions and considerations for adopting nuclear, especially the 21st century advanced reactors that will become available later this decade, will ultimately have a big impact on whether or not these countries will succeed in both expanding access to energy, as all invariably need to do, while still reducing their carbon emissions to meet the world’s decarbonization goals within the coming years and decades.

Read MZConsulting‘s post’s Welcome nuclear newcomer countries to the nuclear family, by Milton Caplan and published September 30, 2021.