Summary of Nuclear Energy, Ten Years after Fukushima

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Nuclear Energy, Ten Years after Fukushima summary

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As global warming demands more intense decarbonization, scientists focus on nuclear power as part of the solution. While serious issues of waste storage and disaster potential persist, engineers are designing safer, more efficient nuclear power plants. Meanwhile, industry pundits work harder than ever to educate a skeptical public about nuclear safety and cost. This Nature commentary provides a multifaceted discussion of the lingering questions about the viability of nuclear power as a safe, essential energy source in a warming world. 

About the Authors

Aditi Verma is a Stanton University nuclear security fellow. Ali Ahmad is a Stanton University nuclear security fellow. Francesca Giovannini is executive director of the Project on Managing the Atom at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.

Summary

Ten years after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster, questions remain about nuclear power’s viability.

The powerful earthquake and resulting tsunami which hit Japan a decade ago triggered the most cataclysmic nuclear accident since the 1986 Chernobyl accident in the former Soviet Union.

The accident sparked new concerns about employing nuclear power as an alternative to fossil fuel-based energy. While many say nuclear power is essential to achieving global decarbonization, activists remain concerned about issues such as radioactive waste storage, disaster prevention, and the industry’s inconsistent regulations.

In 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) outlined a role for nuclear energy in limiting greenhouse gas emissions, but warned against ignoring public buy-in.

The nuclear industry’s most daunting challenges include construction cost and safety. Nuclear plants utilizing the latest technologies are not expected to come online until around 2050, at which point they may prove obsolete compared to green energy sources such as wind and solar.

The nuclear industry must become more accountable, responsible...


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