Let’s for a second imagine a world without nuclear energy. That’s a tough one but let’s try. No nuclear bombs, of course, no Chernobyl and Fukushima, no worries about Iran and North Korea. A wonderful world, maybe?
Probably not, because without nuclear energy we would have burned millions more tons of coal and billions more barrels of oil. This would have brought about climate change of such proportions that what we have today would have seemed negligible.
Nuclear energy and uranium, which feeds it, are controversial enough even without any actual accident happening. Radioactivity is dangerous. Nobody is arguing against it. When an accident does take place, the public backlash is understandably huge. What many opponents of uranium forget to mention, however, are the benefits of nuclear energy and the fact that the statistical probability of serious accidents is pretty low. They focus on the “What if?” and neglect the other side of the coin. But let’s try to see both sides of the issue.
The positive side of nuclear energy definitely deserves more attention than it’s currently getting.Uranium-fueled power is obscenely greener than fossil fuels. It’s also cheaper and, perhaps surprisingly for many, it is actually lower in carbon emissions than solar and biomass. This means that the construction of a nuclear plant, including materials used and the work itself plus the operation of the plant over its lifecycle, produces fewer greenhouse gases than the construction and operation of a solar farm.
What’s perhaps more important is that nuclear energy is much more easily scalable than other low or zero-carbon energy sources. And that isn’t just some claim from the nuclear industry – that’s something climate scientists and environmentalists are saying. Here’s a public appeal by several such scientists, urging greater support for nuclear energy, noting that “While it may be theoretically possible to stabilize the climate without nuclear power, in the real world there is no credible path to climate stabilization that does not include a substantial role for nuclear power.”
The uranium mining industry is certainly aware of these attitudes and it’s also aware of a global trend: countries are building new nuclear plants and upgrading existing ones. Forget about Germany and its plans to go nuclear-free – plans that will cost it tens of billions, by the way. None other than Sweden--the poster child of renewable energy, the country that vowed to become the first fossil-free state in the world--is not only choosing to maintain its nuclear fleet; it is updating them. China is building 20 new reactors, South Korea is working on four; and even Japan is restarting some of the capacity shut down after the Fukushima disaster and building new reactors.