War in Ukraine is causing an energy reset. Western governments are rethinking dependence on Russian oil and gas, and it is a big opportunity for nuclear power to grow and help to lower electricity prices in Texas as well as the rest of the country and the world. Last week Britain announced it will begin developing small scale, modular nuclear power plants. The new energy path is a big win for uranium assets and electricity consumers.
The emergence of nuclear as a clean energy source seemed unlikely. Nuclear power has been derided for four decades. The number of plants globally peaked in 1996 when 17.5% of all electric power was generated in those facilities. Since then public has opinion soured and the political will to keep plants open waned.
Nuclear Energy Downfall
Electricity Prices Goes Up
Environmental movements gained global traction in the 1970s and nuclear energy was the perfect fall guy. Radiation poisoning was invisible and lethal. This was exploited in 1979 by The China Syndrome, a big budget Hollywood film that mirrored a partial meltdown earlier that year at Three Mile Island, a Pennsylvania nuclear facility. Although epidemiological studies later showed no increase in cancers in the area, fears of living near nuclear facilities grew exponentially.
A complete meltdown in 1986 at the Chernobyl nuclear reactor led to the depopulation of 68,000 people across 1,000 square miles in northern Ukraine. And 154,400 Japanese were evacuated in 2011 when a nuclear plant in Fukushima was damaged following an earthquake and tsunami.
Nuclear power plants all over the world began to close. Today these facilities generate only 10.3% of the world’s electricity. It is a contributing factor to electricitiy rates continuing to go higher and higher. The oddity is nuclear power is clean, green, sustainable and statistically much safer than most other forms of power generation, according to research compiled by Our World in Data.
Nuclear Power Can Be Green and Cheaper for Electricity
Nuclear facilities are essentially extremely large tea kettles. The power-generation process begins when a uranium atom is split in half to create fission. This releases a tremendous amount of energy. Rods of the fissionable material are cooled in water, creating steam that spins a turbine and creates electricity.
Most coal or natural gas power plants generate electricity the same way. The difference is uranium is a far more efficient source of energy. A single set of rods the size of a fireplace log holds enough energy to power 100 homes for a year. Uranium is also cleaner. Using it to create electricity does not release carbon into the atmosphere. This is especially as the world races toward zero emissions.
The Future of Nuclear Energy
The United Kingdom had 15 nuclear facilities operating in 1997, generating 27% of the country’s electricity. By 2024 only two plants will remain. With the help of Rolls Royce, Prime Minister Johnson wants to reverse the trend. The goal is to build smaller power generation facilities based on Rolls’ nuclear-powered submarine engines.
It might be the perfect solution for an economy shying away from carbon emissions, and the perils of dependence on Russia oil and gas. The Netherlands, Czechia, Poland, Estonia, Slovenia and Serbia are now studying their nuclear options. Also, the European Union has labelled nuclear power as a climate-friendly investment.