Bill Gates Says Nuclear Power Will Become Politically Acceptable Again
Bill Gates has predicted that nuclear power will ‘absolutely’ become politically acceptable again, claiming that it’s safer than oil, coal and natural gas.
Due to the association with atomic bombs, conflicts and radioactive disaster, nuclear power has long had a bad name for itself for being a dangerous source of energy, with incidents such as the Chernobyl plant meltdown of 1986 and the Fukushima Daiichi plant accident of 2011 continuing to spark fear.
However, the Microsoft co-founder, who is himself an investor in nuclear technology, has explained that new innovations are making nuclear energy safer and more affordable, remarking that nations across the globe are beginning to adopt this energy source.
Speaking with Andrew Ross Sorkin on CNBC’s Squawk Box, Gates said:
Nuclear has actually been safer than any other source of [power] generation. You know, coal plants, coal particulate, natural gas pipelines blowing up. The deaths per unit of power on these other approaches are — are far higher.
Gates, who covered the benefits of nuclear power in his recent book How to Avoid a Climate Disaster, proceeded to explain how new innovations have helped make building power plants more cost effective:
There’s a new generation [of nuclear power] that solves the economics, which has been the big, big problem. At the same time, it revolutionizes the safety.
Innovations reportedly include using liquid sodium rather than water to cool reactors at a lower pressure, helping to avoid meltdowns while allowing for nuclear power plants to be smaller and easier to build.
US political attitudes towards nuclear power have changed in recent years, as per CNBC, with nuclear energy innovation included in President Joe Biden’s campaign pledge to tackle climate change. Furthermore, there has been an increase in bipartisan political support over the last four years.
Those in favour of it argue that there is an urgent need for clean energy, and that operating nuclear power plants doesn’t produce greenhouse gas emissions. However, there are those who argue that it would be best to concentrate on renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind.
Mark Jacobson, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University, told CNBC:
Since we need to solve 80% of the climate and pollution problems by 2030, and 100%, ideally, by 2035, a new nuclear reactor that takes an average of 15 years between planning and operation is completely useless in terms of helping the climate problem.
Furthermore, there are reportedly still risks when it comes to nuclear power, such as the potential for weapons proliferation and the dangers of mining uranium. According to Jacobson, there is also no good safe long-term storage solution to keep nuclear waste anywhere in the US.
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