Is nuclear energy the solution for climate change?

Bill Gates is not the first one to say it, but he is one of those who has been betting more on nuclear energy as the only way to drastically reduce CO2 emissions.

Cooling tower in a nuclear power plant.

Cooling tower in a nuclear power plant. / Photo: Pixabay

LatinAmerican Post | Juliana Suárez

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Leer en español: Energía nuclear: ¿la solución para el cambio climático?

It is not the first time that the founder of Microsoft warns about the importance of betting on nuclear energy as a substitute for coal. However, the more he says that, it seems that the more he is judged, especially because of the risks that this energy could bring.

Since years ago, Gates had promoted this initiative to try to minimize the use of fossil fuels. However, the word "nuclear" currently has negative connotations, if one considers that it has been used for dangerous armaments and that a nuclear detonation could end in a disaster like Chernobyl. For Gates, the importance of this energy lies in knowing how to use it and transform it to benefit the environment, not to create weapons of war.

The subject was again at the center of the discussion due to the launch of his mini documentary series on Netflix, called Inside Bill's brain, where he tells about the project. On it, he affirmed the importance of approaching not only this energy but all renewable energy.

Bill Gates has been investing in nuclear energy and even in 2017 signed an agreement with China to help develop nuclear technology to boost this energy. The corporation, called Global Innovation Nuclear Energy Technology, according to El Periódico de la Energía, “aims to complete the design of a wave displacement reactor (TWR) that reduces the need for uranium enrichment and reprocessing” .

Despite the progress sought by the founder of Microsoft, at the beginning of 2019 the project had a setback. With the commercial war that intensified between the United States and China, the businessman had no choice but to abandon the agreement. In the midst of the search for a new partner, Bill Gates reported that it would be very difficult for the company, Terra Power, to continue until Chinese technology could be counted.

Meanwhile, it continues with research projects with the purpose of supplying “electrical needs and removing billions of people from poverty. Advanced reactors and other isotopic applications are now possible with technology and improved computing capabilities that were unimaginable only a few decades ago”, as seen on the website.

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The Nuclear Forum organization has determined that nuclear energy is one of the best renewable energy alternatives because "it not only contributes to reducing pollutant emissions, but also produces large amounts of energy to meet future development." And the American businessman knows it.

The organization refers to a report of the International Energy Agency, called Energy Technology Perspectives, which foresees the evolution of energy until 2050. In this, it is aimed to limit the increase in temperature up to that year and down to 50% global levels of CO2 emissions.

For this, the report says, the growth of up to 34% of nuclear energy in global electricity production is needed. But in addition, it is of no use if fossil fuels do not have a high decrease in use.

Despite the great initiatives for this use, it has also had great detractors. One of them, and perhaps the largest, is the Greenpeace organization. On the one hand, they affirm that among all the generation with non-fossil fuels (where nuclear energy and renewable energies come in), this is the one that produces the most CO2, since fossil fuels are consumed in the manufacture and production of urianium-based fuel .

The organization also said that "another aspect is that the nuclear power consumed in large quantities is water, which is not adequate in a context of warmer weather."