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Why Massive Nuclear Deployment is Essential

[+] Author Affiliations
Alistair I. Miller, Romney B. Duffey

Atomic Energy of Canada Limited, Chalk River, ON, Canada

Paper No. ICONE17-75949, pp. 931-935; 5 pages
  • 17th International Conference on Nuclear Engineering
  • Volume 2: Structural Integrity; Safety and Security; Advanced Applications of Nuclear Technology; Balance of Plant for Nuclear Applications
  • Brussels, Belgium, July 12–16, 2009
  • Conference Sponsors: Nuclear Engineering Division
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-4352-9 | eISBN: 978-0-7918-3852-5
  • Copyright © 2009 by ASME


Avoiding CO2 emissions while meeting global energy needs is a far greater challenge than most commentators and governments appreciate. Even the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has offered no scenario that would stabilize atmospheric levels. The capacity of the oceans to absorb CO2 is limited to about 40% of the level of emissions in 1990. Shared equitably among the present-day world population, per capita emissions of 35% of the current European average would only return the world to 100% of 1990 emission levels. Yet world population will probably grow by 25% by 2050 and, between 1990 and 2007, global emissions increased by 29%. Our current global trajectory is hurtling us toward ever-higher levels, perhaps even disaster. Consequently, near-zero-emitting sources are the only approaches to energy generation that should be deployed. Nuclear power, with its immense energy density, is the only available source that qualifies for widespread deployment. Existing alternative options are not and cannot effectively contribute (see e.g. MacKay, 2008). The weakness in wind is the need for back-up and supplementation, not so much from its short-term fickleness but its seasonal variability. Carbon capture and storage would have to achieve far higher levels of capture than currently seem feasible. Hydroelectricity has limited remaining potential as well as needing careful deployment to avoid collateral emissions. Aggressive conservation and efficiency measures reduce but do not solve the growth in energy demand and usage. Global economic downturns provide temporary relief but huge social political pain, and energy supply security concerns remain unresolved issue for many countries, even today. Of course nuclear alone would face an overwhelming challenge. We shall need to deploy massive improvements in the efficiency with which energy is used. Solar power in various forms has promise and could have a substantial role at lower latitudes in consistently sunny areas though photovoltaic electricity is still a high-cost option. Geothermal and various forms of ocean-derived energy have development potential. However, we argue that worldwide deployment of 5000 to 10 000 nuclear reactors by 2050 is the only clearly accessible pathway to CO2 stabilization that exists today. This will require extension of the resource beyond once-through cycles and so the deployment of advanced reactor types. But it is doable, it is affordable, and our planet must plan to accomplish this deployment.

Copyright © 2009 by ASME



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