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Nuclear – necessary energy

Clean Energy


Both nuclear and renewable energy are needed in the global energy mix to help fight climate change

In order to cut down on the share of fossil fuels in the world energy mix, nuclear is necessary. A total of WELL OVER 40% of the world’s energy mix for renewable and nuclear energies combined is needed to reach significant greenhouse gas emission reduction targets. Over 40% is not a final goal, but represents a realistic initial goal on the path towards the target of over 70% clean, zero-emission global energy generation.

To achieve a significant GHG emissions reduction target for the planet, the world needs nuclear energy. Nuclear energy is going to have to augment truly environmentally-friendly, renewable energy in the effort to dramatically reduce fossil fuel use.


How much of the world’s energy is nuclear?

Nuclear reactors provided 10% of the world’s total energy sources, on average annually, during the last decade. 13 countries get at least 1/4 of their energy from nuclear, including France (which gets around 3/4 from nuclear), Belgium, Sweden, Switzerland, and Finland.

Nuclear energy is also put to great use in the US, France, China, Russia, and South Korea, among other countries. Now is probably as good of a time as any in this article to mention a couple of major drawbacks (to put it mildly) of nuclear energy.

Namely the danger- catastrophic disasters due to large-scale accidents like the one at Fukushima, Japan, enrichment of uranium in order to create nuclear weapons, and the difficult, expensive process of securely managing the disposal of nuclear waste.

The former major problems mentioned (and less waste generated by the nuclear process – Gen IV theoretically can just run on spent uranium) are resolved in the 4th generation nuclear reactor designs, discussed below.

Current reactors, mostly Gen I & II nuclear plants, along with several operational Gen III plants, rely on uranium and water (to cool the plants). Therefore, these nuclear plants still deplete water supplies, create nuclear waste, use a fuel source that can be enriched to convert the material into a bomb, and represent a source of potential danger.

The largest nuclear disaster in history was the Chernobyl disaster (although the risk of nuclear disaster is dramatically minimized in a Gen III plant, and eliminated in Gen IV nuclear. Some Gen IV designs dramatically cut the need for water to cool plants, as well).

Here’s a brief snippet from the World Nuclear Association summarizing nuclear energy’s current role in the global energy mix:

  • The first commercial nuclear power stations started operation in the 1950s.
  • Nuclear energy now provides about 10% of the world’s electricity from about 440 power reactors.
  • Nuclear is the world’s second largest source of low-carbon power (29% of the total in 2018). 
  • Over 50 countries utilise nuclear energy in about 220 research reactors. In addition to research, these reactors are used for the production of medical and industrial isotopes, as well as for training.  FROM  –  https://www.world-nuclear.org/information-library/current-and-future-generation/nuclear-power-in-the-world-today.aspx

Advanced nuclear reactors

Safer, cheaper, still energy abundant and emissions-free designs that use relatively benign energy sources (thorium or depleted uranium), and much less water for cooling the reactor than previous designs and current operational nuclear plants, are being envisioned in 4th generation nuclear, and are currently available in a few 3rd generation nuclear power plant designs.

Using a small fraction of the water as previous designs, Gen IV nuclear plant designs, are safe, cost-effective, environmentally friendly, and still offer tremendous potential for energy production. Molten salt reactors using depleted uranium, nuclear waste from other plants, or thorium as a complete replacement of uranium, are being planned in Gen IV nuclear plant designs. 4th generation designs (and many 3rd generation plants, both planned and operational) are autonomous, smart plants, with heightened safety measures.

Thorium is being looked at as a fuel source for new nuclear reactors, as it is abundant, much less radioactive than uranium, and creates by-products from burning the fuel source that can be used again in the reactor. There is a higher level of thorium than uranium on the planet.

Thorium, as well as depleted uranium, are being designed with relatively lower up-front capital costs. Little manpower is needed to run and maintain future, advanced 4th generation nuclear plants, due to the autonomous computer technology set to be deployed in the plants.


Summation of the benefits of advanced nuclear reactors

Nuclear reactors designed to run on thorium, and depleted uranium, have a very low chance of being used to develop nuclear weapons, produce less radioactive waste, are abundant fuel sources; and are safer, more cost-efficient in addition to being energy-efficient, and cleaner vis-a-vis energy generation compared to current widely deployed nuclear reactors.

Thorium, in particular, is being looked at by developing nations like China and India because of the relatively low cost, increased safety, an abundance of the material, and tremendous energy potential of this energy source. The U.S. has huge amounts of thorium, in places like Kentucky and Idaho (as well as depleted uranium); and there are large quantities in countries like India, Australia, and Brazil.

The U.S., Europe, and even some of the aforementioned developing countries, also have large stockpiles of depleted uranium. More depleted uranium is being produced every day, which would work in many of the 4th generation designs. A few 3rd generation nuclear plants are already operating, and some more are projected to be developed and ready for operation by 2025. 4th Gen nuclear promises to produce abundant, low-cost energy safely, and with little environmental impact.

In order to meet increased demand for low-emission, safer, lower up-front capital investment, high-efficiency energy sources, there has also been an increased global interest in light water small modular nuclear reactors (SMRs). Benefits of nuclear SMRs include-

Small modular reactors offer a lower initial capital investment, greater scalability, and siting flexibility for locations unable to accommodate more traditional larger reactors.  They also have the potential for enhanced safety and security compared to earlier designs. Deployment of advanced SMRs can help drive economic growth. From- USDOE Office of Nuclear Energy

One other “good” thing about nuclear energy production is that there are fairly low marginal costs. There are little to no negative externalities with regard to the actual energy production (i.e. little to no GHG emissions); however current nuclear power plants do generate toxic waste. Ongoing costs are fuel and maintenance of nuclear plants; the uranium to fuel the plants, and water to cool the plants, and toxic waste disposal facilities.

Large toxic waste disposal locations are necessary to bury the radioactive waste so people aren’t exposed to potentially cancer-causing radiation. Nuclear power plants do also carry high up-front capital costs.

The US Energy Information Administration estimated that for new nuclear plants in 2019 capital costs will make up 75% of the levelized cost of energy.

Even when looking at the downsides of current technologies for nuclear energy production, 4th generation nuclear promises to be safe, cost-efficient (cost of new nuclear fuel is low), and environmentally friendly, with a very high energy production capacity given a relatively small quantity of nuclear fuel need for energy production (whenever 4th-gen nuclear gets built).

New reactors can (theoretically) run on spent uranium and even thorium. 4th generation nuclear has entirely safe, cost-efficient designs. Actually, the levelized cost of energy production from new, advanced nuclear reactors that are already available, deployed, and generating nuclear energy, is looking viable.



For a comprehensive guide on public policy that increases nuclear energy globally, in order to help fight anthropogenic climate change, please see: Public policy proposal to stabilize greenhouse gas emissions


Please also see:

Renewable energy overview

 


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10 Ways to Reduce Food Waste

Reduce Food Waste: 10 Tips |

As the climate changes, global ecosystems experience debilitating effects. Resource depletion degrades the security of the global food supply. Society can adopt eco-conscious consumption strategies such as limiting waste and supporting agricultural stability.

A significant portion of food waste derives from cities. Urbanites can use food waste reduction methods and technologies to maximize the supply and reduce ecological degradation. City dwellers actually have abundant resources available to them to save food for future household consumption, to gather food for charity, and to compost food scraps (as described below). Below are 10 useful tips to reduce food waste:


1. Meal Prep

Individuals can reduce food waste and conserve resources by preparing meals for the week in large quantities. Rather than going to the store each time you need an ingredient, you can prep various items at the beginning of the week, mixing and matching them to create different meals. Increasing the ease of meal development by cooking ahead of time decreases waste production over time.

2. Plan Your Menu Before Going to the Store

A large portion of waste derives from duplicate ingredients. If you go to the store without a list, chances are you may purchase products you already have at home. The new items in your cart can expire before you finish the duplicates at home, creating food waste.

Professionals recommend two methods for developing grocery lists. First, you can plan your meals for the week and jot down the necessary ingredients you will need from the store. Then, residents may check their refrigerators and pantries, replenishing essential goods.

3. Organize Your Cabinet with FIFO

Another efficient method of reducing food waste follows the first-in, first-out (FIFO) rule. When you store leftovers in your refrigerator, you can label them with their dates and place them in front of new items. Additionally, when you purchase duplicate items at the grocery store, you may stack them behind the food with the earlier expiration date.

Organizing your fridge to align with expiration dates improves the efficiency of consumption. The FIFO method effectively reduces food waste and saves consumers money.

4. Donate Leftovers

If individuals have limited room for storing leftovers, they can donate them rather than throwing them away.

Various urban food recovery programs take food scraps and create meals to feed underserved community members. Many Americans experience hunger at some point in their lives, and food donations can provide relief and reduce waste.

Entire food boxes of fresh produce and wholesome edible goods can be donated to community food banks, to help make the most of food, reduce waste, and feed those in need. Feeling charitable? Consider urban food recovery programs or donating to food banks.

5. Use Overripe Produce for Baking

Individuals can also repurpose leftovers and overly ripe produce for baking. Some fruits actually increase in flavor and sweetness as they age. Brown bananas may seem unappealing for raw consumption, but they make the perfect ingredient for banana bread. Similarly, instead of throwing away wilting vegetables, you can use them to make vegetable stock.

Blending nearly expired produce can conserve resources and develop delicious alternatives to waste. Smoothies, ice cream, and salad dressings all represent opportunities to repurpose older fruits and vegetables, blending them into new products. Creating new items out of overly ripe ingredients significantly decreases waste production.

6. Save Leftovers for Lunch

An age-old method of limiting food waste derives from saving your leftovers. Rather than purchasing lunch out during the workweek, individuals can bring their excess food from the previous day’s meals. They can also decrease waste in the commercial sector by bringing reusable take-out containers to restaurants when they eat out.

Glass containers decrease landfill waste and help individuals repurpose leftover meals. Residents can make the most out of their home-cooked meals by freezing the excess. You can significantly enhance the longevity of leftovers by preserving them for future lunches.

7. Invest in Effective Storage Containers

Individuals can decrease waste by investing in practical storage containers. Stackable glass containers increase the efficiency of leftover preservation in one’s refrigerator. They also prevent pests from interfering with food storage better than plastic wrap or other methods.

Residents can also extend the longevity of dry items by transferring them into storage containers from non-sealable plastic bags or cardboard boxes. Pests invade cabinets, tampering with dried food items. Limiting their entry with optimal storage containers and techniques can significantly reduce waste.

8. Use Food Preservation Methods

Consumers can also extend the longevity of produce by engaging in food preservation methods. Pickling is the most notable technique of conserving fruits, vegetables (the most notable being the cucumber, however many other fruits and vegetables serve well as food items for pickling), and other items from home. The vinegar’s acidity in pickling juice prevents bacterial growth and provides an appealing flavor.

9. Differentiate Between “Sell By” and “Use By”

Individuals can also decrease food waste by enhancing their understanding of the “sell by” and “use by” dates. The “sell by” date refers to the amount of time a grocery store can display a product on its shelves. It is not a signifier of the item’s safety or quality.

The “use by” date refers to peak quality. When a product extends beyond its date, it may still be good for consumption, but the flavor may change. Infant formula is an example of an edible item that becomes unsafe after surpassing the “use by” date.

10. Build a Compost

Consumers can also decrease landfill waste by composting food scraps. Individuals may build a compost pile on their property or keep a small container in their home for weekly collections by local organizations. Residents can place almost all organic waste in their compost bins, returning excess nutrients to the soil for regrowth.


Where to Start

Urban regions can decrease food waste by engaging in individual scrap repurposing and reuse methods. Some cities are also utilizing smart technology, tracking consumption levels, and decreasing overproduction. Individuals can help reduce waste by offering their household consumption information to conservation programs.

People can also volunteer for waste recovery organizations, turning scraps into meals for underserved community members. Educating members of your household about food waste reduction methods also increases the sustainability of your home. Over time, small reduction efforts can significantly decrease resource exploitation and improve environmental conditions.


To give you a better idea of how widespread the problem of food waste is globally, here is a chart of worldwide food waste (top 10 countries for annual household food wasted per country and per capita). The food wasted globally each year amounts to billions of tons of food that could have been donated to feed the hungry, stored as leftovers providing future meals, or composted.

Chart FROM – www.forbes.com/2021/03/05/the-enormous-scale-of-global-food-waste-infographic

Article by Jane Marsh

Author bio:

Jane works as an environmental and energy writer. She is also the founder and editor-in-chief of

Environment.co


 

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COP21 – good news for the planet

Paris Climate Accord, and New Net Zero Targets |


NDCs and Net Zero Pledges

At COP21, commonly referred to as the Paris Climate Accord, nations sent representatives to pledge greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) reduction targets (also known as Nationally Determined Contributions, or NDCs). At the annual Conference of the Parties (COP) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), national dignitaries & diplomats from every UNFCCC member nation convene to assess and calibrate their NDCs.

The first concrete NDCs by UNFCCC member nations were made at the COP21 in Paris 2015, and have since evolved with the latest scientific guidance from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC); ideally to the most ambitious GHG reduction pledge a nation can possibly make – a carbon neutrality pledge (net zero GHGs).

In order to FULLY participate in the Paris Climate Accord, EVERY member nation to the UNFCCC must submit Intended Nationally Determined Contributions of GHG reduction pledges for their country;. These pledges must be approved by the UNFCCC, and then pledges turn into official Nationally Determined Contributions.

NDCs are encouraged by the UN to get increasingly ambitious each time they are submitted; and especially every 5 years, when every UNFCCC member is required to submit revised NDCs. Based on the latest scientific guidance from the IPCC, now many nations have net zero (carbon neutrality) targets in addition to their NDC.

As climate science has evolved over the last few years, GHG reduction targets have become more ambitious; and this is reflected in ambitious targets such as the European Union’s pledge to cut carbon emissions to 55% of 1990 levels by 2030; on its way to net zero by 2050. President Biden has pledged that the United States will have 100% carbon free energy on its electric grids by 2035; on its path to net zero.

Many developed nations, including the EU group of countries, the US, the UK, other European nations & Japan, have set ambitious targets to reach net zero GHG emissions by 2050; China has set their net zero target date at 2060.

The Paris Climate Accord is not legally binding, so actual binding NDCs must originate from national, state, and regional, governments (when not put forward by a national government, but rather by state or regional governments; these commitments are simply referred to as GHG reduction pledges, or carbon reduction pledges).

In the case of the EU,  NDC targets and net zero targets are codified into law by legislation that is passed by the European Commission. Several European governments have also independently passed ambitious climate legislation including NDCs and net zero targets.

The United States federal government has the executive commitment of President Biden to ambitious climate pledges (as of 2021), but Congress hasn’t yet passed legislation committing to NDCs or a net zero target like the EU (as well as several European nations independently).

However, individual states (such as California and several others) have passed GHG reduction targets and net zero targets state-wide; through State Congresses as binding legislation. It is expected that all NDC and net zero commitments that the Chinese national government makes, will be codified into legally binding law in China. In fact, over 100 countries worldwide have joined an alliance aiming for net zero emissions by 2050

China has set its net zero target for 2060; and soon thereafter, the US committed to net zero by 2050 (historically, China & the US are the 2 biggest emitters of GHGs); and both of these net zero commitments followed the earlier European carbon neutrality pledges. China set their net zero target in September 2020; while the US net zero pledge was made by President Biden upon taking office, in January 2021.

These net zero pledges represent ambitious goals to keep global warming well below 2°C (that’s 2°C rise above pre-industrial global temperature averages), and ideally to 1.5°C this century; making good on the latest IPCC climate targets. Here is a map from BloombergNEF with countries’ various degrees of progress to net zero:

Map of Global Net-Zero Progress from BloombergNEF

COP21 – The Paris Climate Accord

On December 12, 2015, high-level representatives from 197 nations, including many presidents and prime ministers, agreed to try to hold global warming “well below” 2 °C above pre-industrial temperatures. Clean and renewable energy targets, energy efficiency technologies for nations and industries, concerted efforts in green building, and sustainable mass transit; are among many means the UNFCC advises nations to invest in to help create a more sustainable planet. On November 4, 2016, the agreement took full effect (once nations representing a majority of the planet’s GHG emissions signed the agreement).

Unfortunately, the truth is that, even if the original Paris Climate Accord is carried out by every nation, and to the letter, global temperatures will still be on course to rise by around 2.7-3.1°C by the end of the century. Thus, the need for more ambitious GHG reduction pledges; ideally national commitments to net zero emissions, are necessary. Every world nation (with a few exceptions), UNFCC members, originally signed the agreement, and 190 have ratified and pledged NDCs.



The Breakthrough Energy Coalition

Breakthrough – The Paris Climate Accord did produce lasting positive momentum for global action on climate change. Arguably, the best news of the entire COP21 came on Day 1 of COP21, with the announcement of the Breakthrough Energy Coalition (breakthroughenergy.com). The Breakthrough Energy Coalition, known as Breakthrough Energy Ventures (BEV), is a group of more than 20 billionaires started by Bill Gates (including Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson, Mark Zuckerberg {CEO of Facebook}, and others), who have organized to invest substantial sums in innovative clean energy.

The Coalition wouldn’t be able to fund and meet all of its goals without the most important international commitment by governments to invest in clean energy to date; Mission Innovation. Mission Innovation (mission-innovation.net) is a group of 20 countries including the U.S., Brazil, China, Japan, Germany, France, Saudi Arabia, and South Korea; who have pledged to double government investment in clean energy innovation and to be transparent about its clean energy research and development efforts. In a statement from BEV, the importance of both groups is highlighted –

“THE WORLD NEEDS WIDELY AVAILABLE ENERGY that is reliable, affordable and does not produce carbon. The only way to accomplish that goal is by developing new tools to power the world. That innovation will result from a dramatically scaled up public research pipeline linked to truly patient, flexible investments committed to developing the technologies that will create a new energy mix. The Breakthrough Energy Coalition is working together with a growing group of visionary countries who are significantly increasing their public research pipeline through the Mission Innovation initiative to make that future a reality.”   – quote from The Breakthrough Energy Coalition


The High Ambition Coalition

The High Ambition Coalition (HAC) is a group of over 40 developing countries formed by UNFCCC members determined to create an equitable distribution of responsibility for ambitious climate action, and a fair distribution of UN clean energy resources; fairer distribution among poorer nations and richer, developed, industrialized nations. The HAC initially included smaller, poorer nations such as the Marshall Islands, the nation that originally formed the HAC.

“The Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) formed the High Ambition Coalition in run-up negotiations at the UNFCCC to the Paris Agreement in 2015, helping to secure key elements of the deal, including the 1.5°C temperature goal, the net zero global emissions pathway by the second half of the century, and a five-year cycle for updating mitigation contributions.

Since then, the HAC has worked to realize the promises of the Paris Agreement it came together to deliver. The work has accelerated and expanded in scope, driving forward ambitious global climate action. And the science has only become clearer since Paris, underscoring the imperative of keeping global temperature increase to 1.5°C if we are to avert the most severe impacts of climate change.”   quote from – highambitioncoalition.org/work

Main contributions by the HAC include the ambitious target of 1.5°C, and the 5-year cycle for UNFCC members to submit revised pledges. COP26 in Glasgow is the first such mandatory revision of nationally determined contributions to GHG reduction, as 2015 was a low-profile virtual meeting due to COVID-19.

The European Union is the highest-profile, and richest, group of nations to join the HAC. The HAC consists mostly of developing nations; such as Mexico, Argentina, Costa Rica, and Ethiopia; and smaller, developing island-nations such as Jamaica and Fiji. With Canada joining the HAC in September 2020, the HAC is comprised of over 40 nations; but the focus of the coalition remains equity for developing nations in the Paris Climate Accord’s future dealings.

Historically, since larger, richer nations have profited from industrialization at the expense of the global climate; the responsibility for climate change is greater for developed nations, and these nations should bear more of the financial burden stemming from the global transition from fossil fuels to clean energy.



Current Climate Policies Projection

How are current climate policies worldwide, current GHG reduction targets (nationally determined contributions), going to actually reduce global GHGs as world nations try to achieve net zero GHGs (carbon neutrality) in order to stop global warming? This chart, from Climate Action Tracker (CAT), models current climate policy outcomes, as well as optimistic net zero targets, to 2100>>>

Current climate policies vs. optimistic net zero targets – CAT

Below are some major resources for more information on the COP21:

COP21 Paris – breakdown of the event