This article is the first in a series of articles on Project Drawdown. This is an initiative that detailed the top 100 solutions to reverse global warming.
I really liked this book when it first came out in 2017 and you can read my review of it below.
I was thinking a lot about books last week after I published my end of year reading summary, which you can find via the link below.
It made me think that despite 2018 being a very important year for sustainability and for action on climate change, it was not a vintage year for books on these topics.
After watching the video, which you can find via the link below, it became clear to me how powerful and important Project Drawdown was.
I think Drawdown will go down as one of the most important books of its kind. I would like to play my small part in helping them to keep the momentum alive. So, I am going to write about each of the top 20 solutions that they identified each week.
Beginning today, the focus is on nuclear power, which was their 20th most impactful solution.
This was always going to be a controversial inclusion as this is a technology that divides opinion greatly.
As you can find out via my article below, this is a technology associated with some hidden costs.
The headline numbers produced by Project Drawdown indicate that for a $0.88 billion net cost, nuclear power would reduce CO2 by 16.09 gigatons and bring in $1.71 trillion in net savings. These are big financial and environmental numbers, which allow for nuclear power to make it into the top 20.
In Drawdown, the authors make the benefits clear in the opening paragraph.
“Greenhouse gases emitted to generate electricity are calculated to be ten to a hundred times higher for coal than for nuclear.”
The authors admit that: “what makes the future of nuclear energy difficult to predict is cost.”
They reference the IEA who believe that nuclear can grow from its current 11% to 17% of electricity generated by 2050.
The authors point to the design of new generation 4 reactors that aim to address the main criticisms and concerns about nuclear energy. They end with the following message:
“The world may soon have better choices when it comes to nuclear energy than it has had in the past, but it may be too late given the accelerating cost and construction advantages of renewable energy technologies.”
I thought it was noteworthy that the cost comparison to renewables is mentioned several times in the nuclear chapter. Even describing nuclear power as “regrets solution.”
It seems that the controversy surrounding nuclear power shows no sign of ending anytime soon.
What you need to know
This article was the first in a series of articles that will look into the top 20 climate change solutions identified in Project Drawdown.
Today the focus was on number 20 nuclear power. Even those who are highly critical of nuclear power would have to admit that it is preferable to coal powered generation for base load power.
The cost and safety implications will continue to haunt this technology well into the 21st century. As the costs and quality of other competing clean technologies rise, this will only become more pronounced.
Overall, as a large-scale climate change solution, nuclear is certainly an option that could save massive amounts of carbon from being emitted into the atmosphere. But does it raise more questions than it provides answers to? Only time will tell.
Thank you for reading,
By Barnaby Nash
Please share your thoughts in the comments section below or reach out to me on social media. How do you think nuclear power ranks as a climate change solution?