The Current

Why one advocate says nuclear energy needs to be part of the plan to solve climate change

While some advocates say nuclear energy is our best bet to wean the world off fossil fuels, others claim the threat is so severe we just don't have time to build the reactors needed. We hear from both sides of the debate.

Renewable, non-renewable energy both critical in reducing emissions, some argue

A dire UN report warns that world leaders must drop carbon emissions to zero by 2050 to maintain 'a semblance of the ecosystems we have.' (Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters)

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Nuclear energy should be part of the solution to climate change because it can offer "zero-emissions electricity," argues an expert with a Washington-based think tank.

While energy sources like solar and wind power are becoming cheaper, "they're not alternatives — they're complimentary" in the fight to reduce carbon emissions, Josh Freed, senior vice-president of the clean energy program at Third Way Energy, told The Current's guest host Piya Chattopadhyay.

"We need it all," he said, if we want to reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2050. A dire UN report, released last fall, warned that Canada and other world leaders must meet this goal to prevent a deadly rise in global temperatures.

In October, the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded that limiting warming to 0.5 degrees from current temperatures could make a life-or-death difference for the planet over the coming decades. Another report, issued a month later, found emissions need to drop 55 per cent by 2030 to limit global warming to 1.5 C compared to 2017 levels.

Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change chair Hoesung Lee, centre, speaks during a news conference in Incheon, South Korea last October. (Ahn Young-joon/Associated Press)

But Shawn-Patrick Stensil of Greenpeace Canada says the argument for nuclear power is "increasingly moot."

That's because nuclear plants can take years to construct, are expensive to build, and create radioactive waste

"When you look at the timelines that we need to stop climate change, the [Intergovernmental] Panel on Climate Change gives us 10 years to drastically reduce our emissions," the senior energy strategist said.

"So it's not a question of whether it should be a solution, it's whether it can. In that sense, you just can't build reactors quickly enough."

Click 'listen' near the top of this page to hear the full conversation.

Produced by Samira Mohyeddin.


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