Panel from COP28: How do we expand our energy system with minimal waste and resource use?

A fossil-free future will need much more clean baseload energy, and we must expand all energy sources to meet those demands. However, the expansion needs to be done responsibly, with minimal waste and use of resources and implementation of circular economy practices. Nuclear energy can be a role model for this development, as it is currently the large-scale energy source with the least generated waste and land use, while the spent nuclear fuel can be recycled.
The global demand for fossil-free heat and baseload power will increase substantially to decarbonize sectors such as steel production, heavy-duty transportation, and chemistry. While the technology to provide this power is already available, some challenges need to be considered, namely the environmental impact of producing infrastructure, and how to manage the waste generated by power production.
During COP28 in Dubai, the American Nuclear Society, the European Nuclear Society, and Nuclear for Climate arranged a panel discussing how to solve these challenges for different energy sources, especially focusing on nuclear energy as an example. While we need all available carbon-free technologies – nuclear, renewables, and green hydrogen – to overcome the climate crisis, nuclear is currently the only large-scale energy-producing technology that takes full responsibility for all its waste and spent fuel.
During COP28 in Dubai, a panel on the impact of different sources of energy was conducted, gathering some leading experts on nuclear energy.
During COP28 in Dubai, a panel on the impact of different sources of energy was conducted, gathering some leading experts on nuclear energy.

Safi Syed, Project Manager at Urenco, demonstrated why nuclear energy can be a role model for land use and waste management: “The amount of waste generated by nuclear power is very small relative to other thermal electricity generation technologies,” he explained. “The land footprint of even a large nuclear power plant is comparatively small compared to other sectors, so it’s more supportive of the local environment and wildlife.”
While it is clear that the capacity of nuclear energy needs to be expanded alongside other energy sources, the resources needed must be produced with minimal environmental impact. Dinara Ermakova, Ph.D., nuclear engineer, and nuclear advocate, noted that many developing countries are rich in resources, but mining and producing the materials needed for nuclear power, batteries, solar panels, and wind turbine components can have a significant environmental impact. “It also impacts our energy security due to geopolitical issues, as resource access can be disrupted at any point,” she said. She noted that recycling of fuel, solar panels, and wind turbines must become the norm.
We are at a time in history where the question is not about if we need to transition away from fossil fuels, but how. The panelists agreed that the indications from COP28, where 22 countries committed to tripling the global nuclear energy capacity by 2050, and 118 governments committed to tripling global renewable energy capacity by 2030, are positive and a step in the right direction. What needs to be addressed is the environmental impact surrounding these developments, and making sure that we stay within the natural boundaries of our planet.
Read more insights from the panel on our website:

  • Chris Ndungu

    9 w

    This conversation has brought a momentousness piece of information to us. Thanks for sharing it!

    • George Kariuki

      11 w

      Engaging in these discussions and sharing knowledge across disciplines is crucial in finding sustainable solutions for our future energy needs.

      • Grace Njeri

        11 w

        We absolutely need to end our reliance on fossil fuels and invest in alternative sources of energy that are clean, accessible, affordable and environmental friendly.

        • Munene Mugambi

          12 w

          We expand our energy systems by investing in the right energy sector which is not fossil fuel industry

          • Rukia Ahmed Abdi

            12 w

            The COP28 panel discussion sheds light on the imperative to expand our energy systems responsibly, particularly in the pursuit of a fossil-free future. The focus is on achieving clean baseload energy with minimal waste and resource use, emphasizing the need for a circular economy approach. Nuclear energy is presented as a potential role model due to its relatively low waste generation and land use compared to other large-scale energy sources.

            • Adam Wallin

              12 w

              Cross-technology collaboration in the energy sector is an interesting prospect and something I think we should do more!

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