SYDNEY—Nuclear power is vital to a sustainable energy strategy that will help the world’s neediest people survive and prosper in the decades to come, a U.S. nuclear energy industry official told the World Energy Congress here today.
With two-thirds of the earth’s six billion inhabitants already lacking access to electricity and electricity demand projected to double by 2030, it is imperative that world leaders bring clean, affordable electricity to those who have never known it, Nuclear Energy Institute Vice President Scott Peterson said.
“Without electricity, so much of humanity knows little more than a hand-to-mouth existence,” Peterson said. “In a country like civil war-torn Sudan, only one of out of three people has access to electricity. In neighboring Chad, electricity reaches only one out of 50. Poverty and hunger are widespread in both countries.
“We need a safe, predictable source of power that is readily available for the future, and accepted by policymakers and the public alike. Nuclear energy is that source of power, and its performance worldwide has earned high levels of policymaker and public support—increasingly from the environmental community.”
With 440 reactors operating in 30 countries, nuclear energy provides about one-sixth of the electricity worldwide that comes from emission-free sources. In the United States, 103 reactors operating in 31 states provide three-fourths of the electricity that comes from emission-free sources.
“We need new sources of energy that produce no greenhouse gases. Nuclear energy is emission-free, with the smallest environmental footprint of any large source of electricity,” Peterson said.
Largely because of nuclear energy’s emission-free attributes and its proven ability to reliably provide large amounts of electricity, leading thinkers on energy and the environment are making their support for nuclear power known, Peterson noted.
“Jesse Ausubel of the Rockefeller University in New York proposes that the world’s energy production is moving inexorably toward less carbon-intensive sources. What intrigues me about Ausubel’s view is that he believes the most promising source for producing hydrogen is a well-proven source of emission-free electricity – nuclear energy,” Peterson said.
Similarly, the father of global warming theories, British scientist James Lovelock, in recent months has voiced solid support for nuclear energy.
“In an article earlier this year for the British newspaper The Independent, Lovelock said if we are serious about combating the threat of global warming while meeting rising electricity demand, ‘nuclear power is the only green solution,’ ” Peterson said.
“Lovelock is not alone. MIT, Harvard, Princeton, and the Earth Institute at New York’s Columbia University have released studies advocating expanded use of nuclear energy to combat global climate change.”
Noting that the planet’s population is expected to grow to nine billion by 2050, “the world needs vast quantities of clean electricity to meet staggering electricity demand,” Peterson said.
“China and India—the world’s most populous countries—have recognized the importance of nuclear energy for supplying, reliable, emission-free electricity, and both are pursuing ambitious plans for expanding nuclear power. Other countries such as Sweden and Germany have realized they will have difficulty meeting their Kyoto (greenhouse gas reduction) targets if they shut down their respective nuclear plants.
“Nuclear energy is an imperative power source for our world today and for many tomorrows.”