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How war in Ukraine and climate change are shaping the nuclear industry


In an aerial image taken February 2017, you can see the Vogtle Unit 3/4 site being constructed near Waynesboro by Westinghouse. This is a Toshiba business unit.

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In shaping the future, climate change and global security work against one another. This is especially evident in the events this week surrounding nuclear power.

Nuclear power plants produce energy that emits no carbon dioxide and are an option to burning fossil fuels, which cause the earth’s warming.

“Coal, and other fossil fuels choke humanity,” U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said on MondayAfter the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published its latest report, “The current global energy system is broken”

Within the same week, Russian military forces attacked the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine. The fire started in one building of the compound.

Ukraine’s President stated, “We are issuing warning, no country ever shot at nuclear blocks except Russia.” Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a video statementTranslation: “For the first ever time in history and in the history humankind has, this terrorist country has gone back to nuclear terror.”

Further details will be available on Friday the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reportedThe nuclear power station was still in operation and no radioactive material had been released. Nonetheless, fear swept the world after the alarming security incident.

Kenneth Luongo (the founder of the non-profit) said, “There’s going to be an aeter totter regarding this.” Partnership for Global SecurityThe focuses on energy and security policy.

It is alarming that Ukraine’s nuclear reactors are under threat. This comes as a surprise to many people who associate nuclear with nuclear weapons, danger and radioactivity with health issues.

Nevertheless, countries are realizing that renewables like solar and wind cannot meet their climate targets. Luongo said that last year there was a shift in public sentiment toward nuclear.

China and Russia are the dominant countries

China and Russia were the dominant political power in nuclear power.

Around 440 reactors are operating in over 30 countries, which supply approximately 10% of world’s electricity. according to the World Nuclear Association. At the moment, there are 55 new reactors in construction in 19 different countries. Nineteen of these are in China. Two reactors have been built so far in the U.S.

China certainly has the largest program for nuclear construction,” said John KotekNuclear Energy Institute.

China is home to the “fastest-growing civil and commercial nuclear energy sectors in the world.” Kotek explained that the pace at which they build is similar to the speed you would have in France or the U.S. during the 70s and 80s.

China has been focusing on the construction of new nuclear power reactors in response to an escalating demand for energy due to its fast growing middle-class population.

Kotek describes Russian as having a “really steady” program of nuclear buildingout. Russia currently has three nuclear reactors under construction.

Russia also exports the most nuclear technology worldwide.

A common Russian reactor design, called a VVER design, which stands for vodo-vodyanoi enyergeticheskiy reaktor in Russian, or water-water power reactor in English, is currently being built in many other countries besides Russia, including Bangladesh, Belarus, India, Iran, Slovakia and Turkey.

Luongo stated that China and Russia have become more prominent than the United States, which has “lost the muscle memory” necessary to construct conventional nuclear reactors. The United States lost its reputation as a nuclear power country after the accident on Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania in 1979. It suffered more worldwide after the disasters at Chornobyl, in Ukraine in 1986, and Fukushima in Japan 2011.

The tide is turning, however.

Solution from the Biden Administration was part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure LawThe other was signed into law November, and was effectively a big subsidy. The law includes a $6 billion program intended to preserve the existing U.S. fleet of nuclear power reactors.

At the state level, there are between 75 and 100 nuclear-energy-related bills in state legislatures across the country right now, said Kotek. A decade ago, the average number of nuclear-energy-related bills in state legislatures was a dozen, he said.

Kotek stated that while not all bills will pass, this is indicative of an upsurge for nuclear investment.

The majority of renewed interest in nuclear energy stems from concerns over climate change. It is often strongest in those states that have closed down their coal-based economies.

Kotek said that he sees the “coal-to nuclear transition” as an area where “concern exists in communities and state that look at the possibility for coal plant closing, and wish to make the most of the highly-trained workforce and the assets that exist at that retired coal plant.”

For example, February is a good month for this. West Virginia overturned its moratoriumOn nuclear power plant construction. This was in place since 1996.

The Russia-Ukraine conflict gives the United States the leverage it needs to expand its global footprint. Kotek stated that while the war was tragic, it will provide more opportunities for U.S. nuke firms because Russia has been disqualified.

Russia’s dangerous attack at Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine and China’s decision to not vote in favor of the IAEA’s resolutionLuongo said that in order to avoid such attacks, “will blowback against both countries’ nuclear export reputation.”

“The real question is whether these points are made quickly by the U.S.A. and other democratic states to take advantage of this opportunity.”

US is now focusing its attention on nuclear new developments

The construction and operation of nuclear power plants is costly. become more expensiveIt is cheaper than baseload alternatives such as natural gas.

The U.S. continues to push for the development of the next generation nuclear.

“The United States made the decision not to let Russia and China dominate this next phase of nuclear markets. And so the U.S. is pouring billions of dollars — shockingly — billions of dollars into the development of what are called small modular reactors,” Luongo said. The government uses the Idaho National Lab to test these reactors.

These smaller, advanced reactors are not necessarily new — some variation of the technology has been around since the 1950s — but they’re having a renaissance now, according to Luongo.

These can be constructed with standard components, rather than bespoke construction. This allows for quicker and more economical construction.

Luongo said that while America is preparing to become a technological leader, the country was not ready for policy. Conventional reactors use about 5% uranium. Advanced reactors are made from uranium that has been enriched to 19%. This is just below the threshold for what the IAEA considers weapons-grade uranium.

Luongo stated that “We have not really scratched the surface of [that] means in a nuclear security perspective and nuclear nonproliferation perspective.”