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Pro-nuclear countries making slower progress on climate targets via Phys.org

A strong national commitment to nuclear energy goes hand in hand with weak performance on climate change targets, researchers at the University of Sussex and the Vienna School of International Studies have found.

A new study of European countries, published in the journal Climate Policy, shows that the most progress towards reducing carbon emissions and increasing renewable energy sources – as set out in the EU’s 2020 Strategy – has been made by nations without nuclear energy or with plans to reduce it.
Conversely, pro-nuclear countries have been slower to implement wind, solar and hydropower technologies and to tackle emissions.

A strong national commitment to nuclear energy goes hand in hand with weak performance on climate change targets, researchers at the University of Sussex and the Vienna School of International Studies have found.

A new study of European countries, published in the journal Climate Policy, shows that the most progress towards reducing carbon emissions and increasing renewable energy sources – as set out in the EU’s 2020 Strategy – has been made by nations without nuclear energy or with plans to reduce it.

Conversely, pro-nuclear countries have been slower to implement wind, solar and hydropower technologies and to tackle emissions.

While it’s difficult to show a causal link, the researchers say the study casts significant doubts on nuclear energy as the answer to combating climate change.
Professor Andy Stirling, Professor of Science and Technology Policy at the University of Sussex, said: “Looked at on its own, nuclear power is sometimes noisily propounded as an attractive response to climate change. Yet if alternative options are rigorously compared, questions are raised about cost-effectiveness, timeliness, safety and security.
[…]

The study divides European countries into three, roughly equal in size, distinct groups:
Group 1: no nuclear energy (such as Denmark, Ireland and Norway)
Group 2: existing nuclear commitments but with plans to decommission (eg Germany, Netherlands and Sweden)
Group 3: plans to maintain or expand nuclear capacity (eg Bulgaria, Hungary and the UK)
They found that Group 1 countries had reduced their emissions by an average of six per cent since 2005 and had increased renewable energy sources to 26 per cent.
Group 2 countries, meanwhile, fared even better on emissions reductions, which were down 11 per cent. They grew renewable energy to 19 per cent.
However, Group 3 countries only managed a modest 16 per cent renewables share and emissions on average actually went up (by three per cent).

[…]
The team say that the gigantic investments of time, money and expertise in nuclear power plants, such as the proposed Hinckley Point C in the UK, can create dependency and ‘lock-in’ – a sense of ‘no turning back’ in the nation’s psyche.
Technological innovation then becomes about seeking ‘conservative’ inventions – that is new technologies that preserve the existing system. This is, inevitably, at the expense of more radical technologies, such as wind or solar.
Professor Benjamin Sovacool, Professor of Energy Policy and Director of the Sussex Energy Group at the University of Sussex, said: “The analysis shows that nuclear power is not like other energy systems. It has a unique set of risks, political, technical and otherwise, that must be perpetually managed.

[…]

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