In December of this year, representatives from national governments around the world will meet in Paris for the 21st Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21). They will attempt to ratify an agreement to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by eighty percent by 2050. There is concern among boosters of nuclear power for reduction of carbon dioxide emission that the Bonn Agreement from COP6 that was held in Bonn, Germany in 2001 could be used to significantly limit the freedom of nations to put forth nuclear power as part of their participation in the COP21 agreement. They say that every option, including nuclear power, must be considered for carbon dioxide emission reduction.
More than one billion people in the world today do not have basic energy resources taken for granted in the developed world. It is estimated that there will be three billion such people by 2050 if action to expand energy production is not taken today. The proponents of nuclear power claim that it will take many years for sustainable alternative energy sources to ramp up to meet the needs of the world in the future. They say that without expanding the use of nuclear power, fossil fuels will continue to be widely used and cause great damage to the environment through exacerbating climate change with rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere.
The nuclear proponents claim that many studies have shown that it is unrealistic to expect to achieve an eighty percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2050 without expanding nuclear power production. If the Bonn Agreement is honored, they say that developing nations wishing to use nuclear power will not be able to access important investment options regulated by the COP21 agreement. In addition, the Bonn Agreement directly contradicts the U.S. EPA's Clean Power Plan which allows states to count nuclear power reactors built after 1997 towards obligations for carbon dioxide emissions reduction.
The President of the American Nuclear Society recently sent a letter to President Obama urging him to have the U.S. COP21 delegation support removal of the Bonn Agreement language from any agreement ratified at COP21. He called for a "Coalition of the Realistic" to work to ensure that any nation participating in any agreement reached at COP21 be "free to pursue their clean energy commitments without arbitrary limitations on the technological pathways they choose."
The ANS President also says that " The men and women of the American nuclear technology community are committed to the environmental stewardship of our planet. Any restrictions on nuclear energy in the COP21 agreement will have a chilling effect on the development of current and future nuclear technologies that have the ability to lift billions of people out of poverty. Nuclear technology serves as the workhorse of the low-carbon energy needed to protect the world’s atmosphere."
The nuclear industry is reeling from the impact of Fukushima and the drop in price of oil and natural gas. Without massive government subsidies, the nuclear power industry would never have reached its current level. Losing their competitiveness, popularity with the public and public subsides has serious darkened their prospects for the future. Claiming to be critical to mitigating climate change is about the only card they have left to play. Many arguments against the use of nuclear power have been discussed in this blog. With the continued drop in cost of sustainable alternative energy and the advance of batter technology, soon the window will close for the argument that we MUST have nuclear power to fight climate change. The sooner, the better.