Kurzgesagt YouTube channel asks: Do we need nuclear energy to stop climate change?

April 21, 2021, 12:01PMANS Nuclear Cafe
A screenshot from the Kurzgesagt YouTube video

The German animation studio Kurzgesagt released a new video to its English YouTube channel last week to answer the question, “Do we need nuclear energy to stop climate change?” The studio’s channel on YouTube is self-described as a small team working to make science look beautiful. Its videos discuss a variety of scientific, technological, philosophical, and psychological questions, and it has more than 14 million subscribers. The channel recently discussed the question of deaths caused by radiation—spoiler alert, nuclear is among the safest of all energy production.

What does the video say? The video starts off stating that 76 percent of greenhouse gas emissions are emitted from energy production (broadly defined as transportation, manufacturing, and heating/cooling homes). The video goes on to describe the breakdown of energy production and the fuel used to generate the energy. It states that 84 percent of the world’s energy comes from fossil fuels and that the goal is to electrify as much of our economy as possible.

The solution: The video looks at what a sustainable and reliant energy grid would look like with nuclear and discusses the older fleet, cost of building new nuclear reactors, and the advent of advanced reactors. It concludes with an opinion—one that allows for a middle ground between nuclear and renewable energy supporters—that posits that the threat of climate change is serious and that if the world is to reach net-zero, all technology that can help reach that goal should be pursued.

The bottom line: The original question is asked at the end of the video: Do we need nuclear? “It depends how hard we choose to make things for ourselves,” the video states, and adds later, "Why make it harder than necessary to lower emissions by shuttering the current fleet of reactors and not investing in advanced nuclear? Nuclear and renewables should be viewed as partners and not opponents in the combined fight again carbon emissions."

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