PRESS RELEASE: The Emerging Role of Nuclear Energy in Climate Advocacy

“We showed that we are united and that we, young people, are unstoppable,” proclaimed Greta Thunberg during the UN Youth Climate Summit in New York City last week.  Youth far and wide are converging and demanding action on the part of their leaders in the fight against climate change through climate strikes, financial buying power and career choice.

Today hydropower and nuclear energy form the backbone of low carbon electricity; together providing three-quarters of global low-carbon electricity. The International Energy Agency (IEA) reports that the use of nuclear energy over the last 50 years has reduced carbon dioxide emissions by over 60 gigatonnes which is the equivalent of nearly two years’ worth of global energy-related emissions, proving a key factor in the resurgence of youth’s interest in the nuclear energy sector as a job of choice in their hopes to merge advocacy with career.

“As advocates of nuclear energy as part of a clean energy system, we note that nuclear energy is only one component of a successful clean energy system as illustrated by world leaders in electricity decarbonization, which is why IYNC endorses the IEA Sustainable Development Scenario which increase nuclear power generation to 15%” notes the International Youth Nuclear Congress (IYNC) climate change lead Kristine Madden. Further, Madden highlights that leaders in decarbonization, including Norway, France and Ottawa, Canada, successfully rely on diverse clean energy portfolios to minimize their CO2 footprint and to increase the resiliency of their electrical grids, and that a global effort is needed to diversify energy sources efficiently and effectively in order to win this war against time.

Yet, nuclear energy now faces an uncertain future as ageing plants begin to shutdown, partly because of policies to phase them out but also under pressure from market conditions and regulatory barriers. However, nuclear advocacy is on the rise, as long time foes of the technology like the Union of Concerned Scientists issue statements in support of the continued operation of the US fleet, advocates like Bill Gates and Robert Downey Jr become more vocal in their appeals and organizations with more neutral histories towards the technology vocally underscore its importance in driving decarbonization.

In May 2019, the International Energy Agency released its first report in over two decades on the role nuclear energy must play in clean energy systems in “hopes of bringing nuclear energy back into the global energy debate,” which underscores IYNC representatives are looking forward to contributing to discussions at the International Atomic Energy Agency’s International Conference on Climate Change and the Role of Nuclear Power next week at the United Nations headquarters in Vienna, Austria. This conference will bring together industry and climate change leaders including Hoesung Lee, Chair, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC); Yong Li, Director General, United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO); and Zhenmin Liu, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

On Tuesday 8 October, the United States government in partnership with IYNC and United Nations Nuclear Young Generation will host a Millennial Nuclear Caucus to explore the role nuclear energy must play in a global clean energy system by providing young professionals a platform to engage with and discuss solutions with senior leaders. This event is supported by IYNC as a part of their partnership in the Clean Energy Ministerial Nuclear Innovation: Clean Energy Future initiative.

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