Chernobyl and Fukushima are etched in our collective memories. And we associate the elements uranium and plutonium with nuclear weapons.
Those two nuclear disasters should never have happened. We also know that both accidents could have been prevented by safer human actions and better designed installations. The international nuclear industry learns from these events, which means that nuclear energy keeps getting safer.
The uranium and plutonium used for nuclear power stations are not suitable for nuclear weapons. Moreover, processing these two materials requires large and complex industrial plants. This is cumbersome and very noticeable. Furthermore, international surveillance is very well regulated.
And what about exposure to radiation? Many people do not really understand that either. In the diagram below, you can see the level of radiation that you are exposed to when performing various activities.
Radioactive waste created by nuclear installations is sometimes viewed as a gigantic problem. As if it were uncontrollable and hazardous for thousands of years. But is it really such a gigantic problem?
The fact that radioactive waste is hazardous is not disputed. However, we should remember that there is not very much of it. The waste created by a nuclear installation like Borssele over its entire technical life span would fit in a few shipping containers.
Most of this highly radioactive waste dissipates within a hundred years. After that, it is no longer hazardous. A small portion remains radioactive for thousands of years and must therefore be kept out of the environment. People are technically capable of achieving this. It is a question of acceptance. How long can we accept unchecked emissions of CO2 into our air?
Nuclear energy has an image of being expensive. After all, building a nuclear installation costs a lot of money. Safety must be safeguarded, while radioactive waste needs to be handled very carefully. This means high costs are involved.
NRG feels it is important to measure all sources of energy with the same yardstick. Compare solar, wind and nuclear energy in the same way. Look at them over the entire technical life span and check the hidden costs (and revenue!). Because nuclear power stations last an extremely long time: 60 to 80 years is possible. The costs of nuclear power therefore seem to be comparable with other energy sources.
Why would you build nuclear power stations to save the climate if you can also do it with wind and solar energy? And to make hydrogen you do not need nuclear installations. Moreover, nuclear installations are not suitable for compensating for the variations in the supply of wind and solar energy.
In fact, it is the other way around: the energy from nuclear power stations makes it possible to realise the most ambitious climate targets. Wind and solar energy are too expensive anyway and there are technical problems: the supply of sun and wind fluctuates. And nuclear installations can make hydrogen very efficiently. Modern nuclear installations can be quickly scaled up and down to compensate for variations in the supply of wind and sun.
Climate change and medicine need nuclear technology. So, nuclear research is indispensable to our impact on climate targets and healthcare.