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New wave of nuclear business

January 2019: Rising pressure to reach climate goals incentivises governments to turn towards nuclear energy. In light of storage problems and grid congestions for renewable energies, advanced nuclear technologies are becoming promising alternatives for a decarbonised economy.

Information

Rising pressure to reach climate goals incentivises governments to switch from heavily polluting coals to zero carbon nuclear energy. While the IPCC report endorses developments of nuclear energy, anti-nuclear sentiments within the EU prevails. The EU aims to decarbonise its economy, but the European Commission stands in opposition to a shift towards nuclear energy. Exception to nuclear resentments are the Visegrad countries. The phase out of coal across Eastern European countries depends on replacing coal with nuclear energy and drives an alternative model of decarbonisation. Advancements in nuclear waste processing, nuclear fusion instead of fission, small modular reactors, and walk-away safe reactors such as molten salt reactors are giving rise to a new wave of nuclear business. However, many of these technologies remain at an experimental stage and have not yet reached their commercialisation.

Implications and opportunities

Despite the fact that research and development of nuclear power has decreased over the years, many cutting-edge start-ups are investing heavily into new forms of nuclear energy. In the UK, US, and Canada alone, nuclear energy start-ups represent more than US$1.5 billion in private capital. Entrepreneurial advancements and the possibility of government subsidies are strengthening the nuclear industry and making it a more viable option for carbon mitigating strategies. In light of storage problems and grid congestions for renewable energies, advanced nuclear technologies may become promising alternatives for a decarbonised economy.

Limitations

Following Fukushima in 2011 and the generally negative public, long-term confidence into the nuclear industry is low. Further, problems of waste storage from nuclear fission and insecurity about policy changes challenge the overall advances within the industry.


Sources

Chu, S., Cui, Y., & Liu, N. (2017). The path towards sustainable energy. Nature Materials, 16(1), 16–22. doi:10.1038/nmat4834

The New Economy. (2018). The Impending Threat of Climate Change Brings Nuclear Energy to the Force Once More. Retrieved from https://www.theneweconomy.com/energy/the-impending-threat-of-climate-change-brings-nuclear-energy-to-the-fore-once-more

 

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The views expressed in these external research papers are those of the authors and do not represent an official position of CISL, the University of Cambridge, or any of its individual business partners or clients.