The Secret The Keepers Can’t Tell

“Can you keep a secret?”

It’s a question we’ve all be subject to since we can remember. Rarely, however, do we ask others to spread our secrets. Anyone who knows about the benefits of nuclear energy is trying to spread the news, but they’re continually ignored to our collective detriment.

We live in an unprecedented time where our decisions and choices regarding energy provision make more of an impact with each passing day. At COP-21, the Paris Agreement was agreed and the world’s nations almost unanimously agreed to join a global fight against time to limit CO2 emissions and stop global temperature rise. Collectively we face a binary choice: to either reduce energy use, or use an alternative means of energy provision.
Fundamentally, there is no viable reason energy consumption will fall and so there is only one option – to find an alternative.

There is no single technology which will ‘save our planet’ so replacing traditionally used fossil fuels means creating a mixture of new, evolving and alternative technologies. From wind, solar and tidal, through to nuclear, all interconnected with advanced energy storage systems – the future is undeniably a diverse assortment technology.

Renewable energy provision is growing, the technologies continue to improve and retain their popular public opinion, but problems also remain. As an intermittent source, there is no guarantee of energy on demand and until significant improvements in battery technology or alternative energy storage systems are realised, renewable energy leaves a void which requires an on-demand energy source to supplement it during troughs in wind levels or sunshine hours. The fundamental infrastructure changes necessary to deal with the volatile peaks of solar and wind energy production continue to inhibit even theoretical ideas that renewable energy could totally replace traditional stable sources. Moreover, cost estimates are uncontrollable and unpredictable, plus stochastic datasets hinder predictive analysis.

Renewable energy is without a doubt a flourishing source of power. Within a long enough time scale, it has the potential to replace huge swathes of energy currently produced by hydrocarbons – but the ideal future needs a change today.

Targets implemented at COP-21 require CO2 output to have peaked by 2020, and as such alternatives need to be ready today. Nuclear energy has been, and continues to be, the UK Government’s choice for base-load reliable electricity. Nuclear energy has the ability to bridge the gap between desirable renewable energy and realistic energy demand requirements.

Nuclear energy currently produces 20-25% of UK electricity. Clean, efficient, cost-effective, and maybe most importantly, misunderstood. Nuclear continues to divide opinion, and garners preconceptions often far from the truth. In an ideal world, education and engagement would change the public opinion, which would in turn help to drive a renaissance in technology.

In the 1950s the children of Britain were excited at the concept of having nuclear technology as the future of energy production. Since that time, economic and political decisions have put nuclear on the backburner, and have contributed to the predicament we’re in today. Those at the forefront of policy making and education are responsible for ensuring that the public are educated on the truth around nuclear, and how it indisputably fits into the future energy mix.

The UK has a rich history in the nuclear industry having operated plants for over 50 years. In a time where global collaboration is set to be key in the fight against climate change, the UK finds itself in an enviable position. The UK has an opportunity to be one of a limited number of countries, with the know-how, the impetus and the resource to become a major player in an industry that will be vital to the peace, safety and the prosperity of Earth. As well as the obvious opportunities with traditional Generation III reactors, there are many others with phenomenal potential. Small Modular Reactors are an alternative and more quickly deployable option, allowing a more localised source of energy. Gen IV reactors like Molten Salt Reactors mitigate many of the perceived risks of Gen III technology by default, and offer the chance to use thorium as an alternative fuel cycle with huge positive implications for waste management and reducing nuclear weapon proliferation potential.

The benefits of nuclear energy are understood by scientists, engineers, governments and advisors – unfortunately these are often offset by preconceptions from the public, making it impossible for policy makers to freely recommend nuclear as a fuel for the future. An ideal future for nuclear starts with allowing everyone to know the facts, the truth and the potential of nuclear and then for the public to understand that it’s absolutely necessary to have
nuclear as part of our future next generation energy provision. An ideal future for nuclear removes the main red-tape, to allows our nation to invest in a sustainable future, providing cheap and clean fuel for generations to come.

Nuclear is undeniably one part of the future energy provision mixture. A mixture of technology to provide an ideal future, but a future that’s vital nonetheless. If the general public realised the true value of nuclear, politicians could more easily recommend it as a smart and immediate choice for provision, and we could much faster realise the ideal future we so desperately need.

The true power of nuclear energy remains the best kept secret in the energy world, but unusually, it’s a secret the keepers are trying to tell.

– Bertie Ivory-Peters, Nuclear cc Sponsored Postgraduate