Nuclear energy has watershed moment at COP28

December 22, 2023, 7:02AMANS Nuclear CafeSeth Grae

What happened at COP28, the annual United Nations climate event held this year in Dubai, was the greatest outpouring of global support for nuclear power the world has seen since the thunderous reception to Eisenhower’s Atoms for Peace call exactly 70 years ago. For the first time, nuclear energy was specifically mentioned in the closing statement of a COP event as one possible way to combat climate change.

The final statement, approved by the 198 countries that attended the 28th Conference of the Parties, states that accelerating low- and zero-emission technologies such as renewables and nuclear energy are key to achieving “deep, rapid, and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.”

That historic statement builds on a growing recognition that climate change goals can only be met with significant growth of nuclear energy within a diversified generating mix with other nonemitting and low-emitting methods. Nuclear energy’s ability to produce reliable, emission-free power around the clock has contributed to resurgence of interest in the technology.

This is more than just good news for the nuclear energy sector; it is also good for our efforts to address climate change. The world is finally acting on what leading international organizations and climate experts have been saying for years—that expanding nuclear energy is an essential part of achieving our climate goals.

Germany closed its nuclear power plants and invested massively in renewables. At COP28, countries’ renewed interest in nuclear was partly a recognition that Germany is now burning more coal, because there are no economically viable ways to back up wind and solar on a large scale when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine.

Meanwhile, delegates also heard how Germany’s neighbors—like the Czech Republic, France, Poland and Sweden—are forging ahead with plans for new nuclear facilities or, as in the case of Belgium, are reconsidering plans for shutting down operating nuclear plants.

Including nuclear energy in the final COP statement could help nuclear energy receive funding under financing methods being set up under the COP process. It supports the case for the World Bank (and other multilateral financing institutions) funding nuclear projects as part of their support to deal with climate change. And because of its inclusion in this year’s final statement, we are more likely to see nuclear appear again in the statements from future COPs and in other UN documents.

The United States led a coalition of countries including Canada, France, Japan, and the United Kingdom that last month pledged to support a tripling of nuclear power globally by 2050. Companies at COP28 joined in with a parallel pledge to triple nuclear power globally by that date, and Lightbridge Corporation is proud to be one of the signatories to this pledge. And for the first time ever, COP28 officially featured a panel on nuclear energy on a COP presidential stage.

Alongside the multitude of corporate deals and announcements from nuclear firms at the conference, one of the most encouraging aspects was the huge presence from younger nuclear advocates. Nuclear for Climate had an exhibition booth hosted by young volunteers from 28 countries, and Net Zero Nuclear was one of many other organizations with a prominent presence. The Conference of Youth included positive discussions on nuclear, and the Global Youth Statement also favored it.

Even the Global Renewables and Energy Efficiency pledge at COP28 noted that we will need “an increasingly diversified portfolio of technologies” will need to be “market-ready and available at scale to decarbonize the energy sector, with a critical role for renewables, energy efficiency, and other zero-emissions technology, including nuclear energy for those countries that choose to use it.”

Overall, this year’s Conference of the Parties marked a vital stepping stone toward a global resurgence in nuclear power. We must all make sure to build on these vital developments to keep the momentum going and ensure nuclear plays its full part in the world’s clean energy future.


Seth Grae is president and chief executive officer of Lightbridge Corporation.


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