Why is it that nuclear power is at risk of becoming greenwash?

Not all parties to the power sector wish to green up. Coal is an integral part of the electricity supply and politicians across the world – it would be easy to forget that India was not a signatory to the Paris Climate Change Agreement and has widely moved toward a ban on new coal-burning power plants.

It’s the other energy source that merits plenty of concern. Nuclear energy is down in demand as countries such as Japan and France move toward nuclear power plants that rely less on fossil fuels.

Around a third of the electricity generated by the EU in 2018 was from renewable sources. Renewables are expected to take up a growing share of the energy generation throughout the bloc in the years ahead, to reduce carbon emissions from energy supply. This will be vital if the emissions targets which countries have pledged to implement in the wake of the Paris Agreement to reduce carbon emissions are to be met.

Public support for nuclear power has diminished over time as fear of nuclear accidents and the cost of safety enhancements has prompted governments to look again at nuclear as an option. But countries which are serious about the 2030 climate targets and reducing emissions, are likely to have a long-term commitment to the creation of affordable, reliable and clean sources of energy to supply their countries. This can be done without shutting down older and older and older power plants. Nuclear power is the cheapest and most modern source of low-carbon electricity around. So, why are large blocks of the supply of nuclear power being blocked by the pressure of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and its “nuclear fuel cycle” body, the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP)?

Earlier this year, countries such as The United States of America, Italy, Japan, Taiwan, The United Kingdom, France, Kazakhstan, and Spain signed a Joint Declaration to fight for access to nuclear energy at sustainable prices. Their participation in the Joint Declaration underlines the benefits of renewable energy and steps towards more sustainable nuclear energy, but nuclear energy – with reactors now nearing completion – should be part of this virtuous circle.

Currently, GNEP is working to promote nuclear energy in countries with nuclear reactors and countries without existing nuclear plants. Nuclear energy – by harnessing radioactive isotopes to generate electricity – has the potential to provide clean, reliable and high-quality energy without creating any emissions. Nuclear energy is seen as a source of long-term energy security which is not dependent on volatile oil prices. There are already about 27,000 nuclear reactors in operation around the world. GNEP plans to increase the number to 50,000 by 2030 in order to help countries meet their 2030 carbon emissions commitments. But as more nations join the Nuclear Energy Association, a coalition of over 40 companies operating in the sector, GNEP will face less pressure to quickly ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) which prohibits the deployment, testing and testing of nuclear weapons in all environments.

In 2006, The World Business Council for Sustainable Development – a coalition of thousands of chief executives – sent a letter to G-7 leaders on the need to ratify the CTBT. More than two-thirds of G-7 leaders now signed the CTBT and there is an official endorsement from the UN General Assembly. But the only such UN endorsement from a G-7 country, The United States, has not yet been ratified.

Without a CTBT ban, the United States can continue to use nuclear weapons, which the United Nations member states stated they would not tolerate. As leaders from all 50 nations at the Nuclear Security Summit in 2018 urged the United States and Russia to sign the CTBT so that any remaining nuclear weapons could be removed from hands.

About twelve countries – including India, Pakistan, South Africa, South Korea, and Malaysia – still do not have bilateral relations with IAEA, the voluntary network which is the international monitoring and sharing of information on the nuclear industry. IAEA publishes trade-related information and issues nuclear fuel certification which have significant implications for more than 80 percent of the worlds nuclear fuel supply. It states the nuclear fuel made by these nations is effectively tainted, having to meet more stringent safety, and security standards. This impacts uranium supply in developing countries. Meanwhile, GMBSA and GMC, and their members, are engaged in a fight to prevent the import of nuclear reactors in several countries including Pakistan, Iran, and North Korea.

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