In 1992, the United Nations adopted the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development to guide the world’s sustainable development efforts. The document contains 27 principles that, if observed, would ensure that economic growth would not jeopardize environmental integrity. The successful operation of nuclear power plants—along with the myriad health, industrial, agricultural, and environmental benefits of other nuclear technologies—fulfill these principles.
Sustainable development encompasses improving a country’s standard of living while preserving the environment of that particular country and the world. As Principle 3 of the Rio Declaration states, "The right to development must be fulfilled so as to equitably meet developmental and environmental needs of present and future generations." Emission-free technologies, such as nuclear energy, are essential to global sustainable development.
The Rio Declaration identifies, in Principle 5, "eradicating poverty as an indispensable requirement for sustainable development." We will need massive quantities of electricity to free the world of poverty and disease. Among the countries of the world, on average, a three-year increase in life expectancy correlates with a 100 percent increase in electricity consumption per person.
Nuclear energy can supply electricity while satisfying the economic and environmental protection goals specified in the Rio Principles. Sustainable living conditions in the densely populated urban areas of the future will require abundant, reliable, affordable electricity generation that does not compromise the environment, such as nuclear energy.