Is Nuclear energy green energy?

Accra, Jan. 5, GNA- The European Commission’s proposed plan to label some gas and nuclear power as green has triggered conflicting reactions among countries, energy experts, and environmentalists.

Green energy simply refers to energy that can be produced in a way that protects the natural environment.

It is the case of the European Union (EU) that gas and nuclear are key to helping transition to cleaner power and sustainability, with the proposal aiming to support the 27-nation bloc’s shift toward a carbon-neutral future.

The Union says the plan would "accelerate the phaseout of more harmful sources, such as coal, and in moving us towards a more low-carbon greener energy mix."

"It is necessary to recognise that the fossil gas and nuclear energy sectors can contribute to the decarbonisation of the Union's economy."

The Deutsche Welle (DW) reports that under the proposal, only gas and nuclear plants with the highest standards would be considered green whereas Nuclear plants would also need to have strict waste disposal plans.

Gas plants on the other hand would have a limit of how much carbon dioxide is released per kilowatt-hour of energy produced, the DW reports.

If a majority of member states back it, it will become EU law, coming into effect from 2023.

The EU’s proposal follows the pledge by countries to keep temperature rises within 1.5C at the last COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom.

The proposal has, however, divided opinions even within the bloc over its appropriateness and whether or not the move could help to achieve sustainability without damaging the environment.

Supporters of the proposal have argued that gas is "cleaner" than alternatives such as coal and that nuclear energy produces zero carbon emissions.

Opponents reject these options, fearing that the move would hinder sustainability and "water down" current efforts.

German Environment Minister, Steffi Lemke describes the proposal as "wrong", adding that nuclear energy could lead to environmental disasters and large amounts of nuclear waste.

Germany has been opposing nuclear energy since the disaster at Japan's Fukushima plant in 2011 — resulting most recently in the closure of three out of the country's six remaining plants on December 31, 2021.

France on the other hand, strongly supports nuclear power – the country’s main source of energy –with 56 power reactors currently in operation.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has persistently maintained that Nuclear energy is green energy.

"Debates about energy and, in particular, nuclear energy must be based on facts. And the fact of the matter is that nuclear energy is a green energy.

“It is an energy that has almost no CO2 emissions," Mr Rafael Mariano Grossi, the Director-General of the IAEA told Euronews in October last year.

Asked about the potentially damaging effects of radioactive waste, an argument that many environmental organisations use to oppose the roll-out of nuclear power, Mr Grossi dismissed fears of accidents, arguing the amount of waste from reactors is "ridiculously small".

"Nuclear waste is a reality. But nuclear waste, of course, is dealt with in an adequate manner, and there has never been an accident involving nuclear waste" he said.

Ghana is among developing countries that have ramped up efforts to add nuclear power to the energy mix, with the country targeting to construct and operationalise its first nuclear power plant by 2030.

Sharing his views on the EU’s proposal in an interview with the Ghana News Agency, Dr Stephen Yamoah, the Executive Director, Nuclear Power Ghana (NPG), describes the EU’s proposal as positive development and “good news” for Ghana.

He says the development means that more countries are realising the important role that nuclear plays as sustainable and environmental- friendly energy source.

“Nuclear is certainly green and that is not debatable. Nuclear does not emit CO2 and it is one of the surest ways if we are to decarbonise the environment."

In a separate interview, Dr Philip Adom, Energy Economist, says Nuclear Energy “is not purely green” because the radioactive waste generated from nuclear plants could damage the environment if not properly managed.

“Nuclear energy has some environmental implications so based on that you cannot say that it is purely green.

“But if we can institute high safety measures then nuclear energy someway can be considered as green because those regulations that you have implemented will ensure that the radioactive waste that is emitted would be managed properly,” he said.

Ghana, in 2016, ratified the Paris Agreement on Climate Change targets and commenced the implementation of the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).

These are a set of climate change mitigation and adaptation programmes designed to reduce the emission of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other Greenhouse Gas into the atmosphere.