Climate change: Nuclear power is a useful tool in the fight against global warming – Scotsman comment

41 days to Cop26: A contentious issue in the fight against climate change is the role that could be played by nuclear power.

A protester makes a point outside the Hinkley Point nuclear power station on the anniversary of the Fukushima disaster in Japan (Picture: Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

Environmentalists have long campaigned against nuclear partly because of devastating accidents, like Three Mile Island in the US in 1979, Chernobyl in 1986 and Fukushima Daiichi in 2011, and concerns about the disposal of large amounts of radioactive waste.

It is also relatively expensive and power stations built on coastlines, to enable easy access to water, are vulnerable to some consequences of climate change, like sea level rise and more frequent, more powerful storms.

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However, nuclear energy has one property that has made it attractive even to some in the environmental movement – it is low carbon.

A recent briefing by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe warned that “analyses indicate that the world’s climate objectives will not be met if nuclear technologies are excluded”.

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The priority for the world is to stop global warming from going beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius, so when delegates meet in Glasgow for the United Nations’ Cop26 climate summit they need to utilise any tool that will help them achieve that.

Given the fall in prices of renewables – particularly onshore wind and solar – in recent years, nuclear may not ultimately be the fuel of the future, barring further technological developments.

But the need to rapidly stop using fossil fuels means it will have a role to play in keeping the lights on and powering our economy for many years to come.

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