By Mary Hearty
Countries have been urged to include nuclear power among national strategies to achieve the global goal of net zero emissions by 2050.
Speaking at the Atoms4Climate Pavilion, a side event at the climate change conference (COP 27) Li JunHua, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs at the United Nations Economic said nuclear power contributes significantly to the emissions reduction as existing nuclear power plants produce approximately one gigatone of carbon dioxide-equivalent per year.
He added that nuclear energy can be used to monitor pollution, and helps in the diagnosis and treatment of major diseases.
“The contribution of nuclear energy in the future will depend on how each country evaluates nuclear power against renewables and alternatives,” Junhua said, noting that we must also acknowledge that nuclear safety remains a significant public concern as long-term management of nuclear waste is yet to be addressed.
According to Dr. Matthew Opoku Prempeh, Ghana’s Minister for Energy, as countries seek to meet their nationally determined contributions (NDCs), nuclear energy should be part of their mix of energy solutions. He acknowledged that Ghana commenced its nuclear program about seven decades ago with the establishment of an atomic agency commission.
“We hope that road transportation, electricity production, science and technology, the use of nuclear will be promoted to ensure we have a clean, safe, cheap and sustainable energy for socio-economic development and for improvement in science and medicine,” he explained.
On safety concerns, Prempeh said we must embed a peaceful civilian use of nuclear technology for energy production. “Because if we don’t, we don’t see how we will be able to transition to a net zero, hence we are going to suffer more.”
At the moment, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has cooperated with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while enhancing agri-food sector by bringing nuclear approaches and techniques for food and agriculture.
Dominique Mouillot, President of Women in Nuclear also said they are advocating for the inclusion of nuclear energy solutions because women and children who are traditionally vulnerable, are severely affected by climate change.
Extreme weather events are affecting access to clean water, exacerbating food scarcity in many regions, and threatening existing energy infrastructures that provide power to schools and homes.
Nuclear technology can provide carbon dioxide pollution-free electricity as well as access to clean water by desalination, or providing clean hydrogen to power vehicles.
“If we are to reverse the current trend, we need to develop and deploy greenhouse gas-free energy solutions that are affordable, accessible, and suitable for a wide variety of populations and geographic regions suitable for women and children,” Mouillot stated.