Nuclear energy is always a hot topic for environmentalist and often gives massively polarised views on the topic. Many prominent economists and politicians are keen to push the positives of nuclear energy, with the negatives pushed as hard by those opposed. Deciding which is right, pro or anti-nuclear, will always be a personal issue and can be a vote winner in some areas.
Respected economist Jeffrey Sachs said on Thursday that the expansion of nuclear energy will be required to combat climate change. He stated that nuclear energy was needed because it provides a low carbon source of power, whilst renewable energies were not making up enough of the worlds energy supplies and new technologies are not progressing fast enough.
“We won’t meet the carbon targets if nuclear is taken off the table” He said.
He also mentioned how fossil fuels are cheap enough to stop people choosing low carbon choices. Unless there were incentives to choose lower carbon choices in favour of fossil fuels, then fossil fuels will continue to be used.
A prime recent example of people turning away from nuclear energy is Japan. After the Fukushima disaster in 2011, the country has turned off all but one of its nuclear power plants (54 in all) with the final one being closed this coming Saturday.
These reactors being shut down (at least temporarily) have had a massive effect on Japan’s energy usage. Before the disaster, nuclear power in Japan supplied a third of the country’s electricity. Habits have been forcibly changed due to this decrease in electricity, with changes in working hours to spread usage and decreased use of air conditioning and other services.
The world response to the Fukushima disaster has being polarized too. Germany is going ahead with a drastic policy reversal by shutting all of its nuclear reactors down by 2022, whilst country’s such as the UK are continuing to push nuclear energy.
There are many factors for and against the continuation of nuclear power, which will no doubt be a vote winner in the near future. Whilst the example of Japan is an extreme one, with many differences from the UK; socially, geographically and financially, the debate is sure to rage on for many years to come.