Nuclear Energy Holds Key Role in a Low Carbon Future

Climate change is recognized by the United Nations as “the most systemic threat to humankind,” but even with global awareness of the problem, the demand for fossil fuels remains high. Meanwhile, the World Health Organization says that air pollution is the world’s largest environmental risk, with an estimated 7 million people dying prematurely from air pollution each year.

The rise of renewable energy sources like wind, solar, and geothermal show that there is a demand for more sustainability in the energy industry; however, these technologies can’t alone supply the nation’s increasing demand for reliable energy.

Advanced nuclear reactors and fusion technology stand to help nuclear energy play a critical role in solving the climate crisis, something that joint faculty Associate Professor Steven Skutnik says will be necessary due to nuclear energy’s low-carbon base load.

Department of Nuclear Engineering

Nuclear Energy Holds Key Role in a Low Carbon Future

May 26, 2020

Nuclear power plant at dusk.

Climate change is recognized by the United Nations as “the most systemic threat to humankind,” but even with global awareness of the problem, the demand for fossil fuels remains high. Meanwhile, the World Health Organization says that air pollution is the world’s largest environmental risk, with an estimated 7 million people dying prematurely from air pollution each year.

The rise of renewable energy sources like wind, solar, and geothermal show that there is a demand for more sustainability in the energy industry; however, these technologies can’t alone supply the nation’s increasing demand for reliable energy.

Advanced nuclear reactors and fusion technology stand to help nuclear energy play a critical role in solving the climate crisis, something that joint faculty Associate Professor Steven Skutnik says will be necessary due to nuclear energy’s low-carbon base load.

“Electricity is only one-fifth of the total carbon emissions right now, so if we’re really talking about deep cuts in carbon emissions we have to think about other sectors,” he said. “It’s a question of how do we go beyond cutting carbon out of the electricity sector and start actually eating into the problem in other sectors. For instance, if we wanted to decarbonized transportation, it means we’re probably going to electrify. In order to do that, we will need a lot more zero carbon power.”

Advanced nuclear reactors, and even fusion reactors, could provide a reliable source of energy to be deployed on a large scale, potentially replacing fossil fuel plants altogether.

Read more at ne.utk.edu.

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