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Sustainability 2017, 9(1), 163; doi:10.3390/su9010163

Positioning Nuclear Power in the Low-Carbon Electricity Transition

Department of Engineering Management, University of Antwerp, 2000 Antwerpen, Belgium
Department of International Business and Economics, University of Greenwich, London SE10 9LS, UK
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Barry D. Solomon
Received: 4 December 2016 / Revised: 15 January 2017 / Accepted: 18 January 2017 / Published: 23 January 2017
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Sustainability and Nuclear Power)
View Full-Text   |   Download PDF [1455 KB, uploaded 23 January 2017]   |  


Addressing climate change requires de-carbonizing future energy supplies in an increasingly energy-dependent world. The IEA and the IPCC (2014) mention the following as low-carbon energy supply options: ‘renewable energy, nuclear power and fossil fuels with carbon capture and storage’. Positioning nuclear power in the decarbonization transition is a problematic issue and is overridden by ill-conceived axioms. Before probing these axioms, we provide an overview of five major, postwar energy-related legacies and some insight into who is engaged in nuclear activities. We check whether low-carbon nuclear power passes the full sustainability test and whether it is compatible with the unfettered deployment of variable renewable power sourced from the sun and from wind and water currents, which delivers two negative answers. We show that the best approach of the sustainable energy transition was Germany’s 2011 decision to phase out nuclear power for a fast development and full deployment of renewable power. This is the best approach for the sustainable energy transition. We offer five practical suggestions to strengthen and accelerate carbon- and nuclear-free transitions. They are related to institutional issues like the role of cost-benefit analysis and the mission of the International Atomic Energy Agency, to the costs of nuclear risks and catastrophes, and to the historical record of nuclear technology and business. View Full-Text
Keywords: nuclear power; nuclear risks; sustainability; low-carbon transition; electricity sector; renewable energy; IAEA International Atomic Energy Agency; IPCC Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change nuclear power; nuclear risks; sustainability; low-carbon transition; electricity sector; renewable energy; IAEA International Atomic Energy Agency; IPCC Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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Verbruggen, A.; Yurchenko, Y. Positioning Nuclear Power in the Low-Carbon Electricity Transition. Sustainability 2017, 9, 163.

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