OPINION: Nuclear power has become irrelevant — like it or not. Ten years went by since the Fukushima Daiichi accident began. What happened in the United States, historically leading the world’s nuclear power programs and still operating the largest reactor fleet in the world? What are global developments in energy policy increasingly dominated by renewable energy? “The debate is over. Nuclear power has been eclipsed by the sun and the wind,” Dave Freeman wrote in the foreword to the World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2017. “These renewable, free-fuel sources are no longer a dream or a projection — they are a reality that are replacing nuclear as the preferred choice for new power plants worldwide.” No wonder despair is reigning in nuclear companies’ headquarters. Ten years after the disaster struck Japan, nuclear power has become irrelevant in the world, an industrial reality that also Japanese policymakers need to face.
Kyodo News 16th March 2021 read more »
Jonathon Porritt: Don’t believe hydrogen and nuclear hype – they can’t get us to net zero carbon by 2050. Now that the whole world seems to be aligned behind the goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2050, the nuclear industry is straining every sinew to present itself as an invaluable ally in the ambitious aim. Energy experts remain starkly divided on whether or not we can reach this global net zero target without nuclear power, but regardless, it remains a hard sell for pro-nuclear enthusiasts. Hydrogen hype has become all the rage over the last 18 months, with some offering up this “clean energy technology”, as government officials insist on describing it, as the answer to all our net zero prayers. For those prayers to be answered, there will need to be a complete revolution in the way in which hydrogen is produced. As it is, 98% of the 115m tonnes used globally is “grey hydrogen”, made from natural gas or coal, that emits around 830m tonnes of CO2 per annum – 2% of total global greenhouse gas emissions. Beyond that, there’s a tiny amount of so-called “blue hydrogen” – essentially grey hydrogen but with its CO2 emissions captured and stored – and an even tinier amount of “green hydrogen” from electrolysing water, both of which are much more expensive than the climate-wrecking grey hydrogen. The gulf between that current reality, one rarely mentioned by hydrogen enthusiasts, and the prospect of readily available and affordable green hydrogen that could help us get to net zero, is absolutely vast. Don’t get me wrong: we will indeed need significant volumes of green hydrogen and it’s good that the government has set an ambitious target for 2030, in the hope that this will significantly reduce the costs of electrolysis to create it. But we need to be clear about what that green hydrogen should be used for: not for electricity; not for heating homes and non-domestic buildings; and not for cars, where electric vehicles will always be better. Instead we will need it for what are called the “hard-to-abate” sectors: for steel – replacing carbon-intensive coking coal – cement and shipping.
Guardian 16th March 2021 read more »