LONDON (Reuters) - The world nuclear power industry welcomed on Friday the tacit backing given to their technology by some of the world’s top scientists and economists in the latest analysis of the climate change crisis.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) meeting in Bangkok said tackling global warming was both technologically and financially feasible as long as action was taken promptly, and that nuclear power could be in the arsenal.
“It is common sense. What else is there for most of electricity generation that is carbon free,” Ian Hore-Lacy of the World Nuclear Association said.
“If you have a major technology that is capable of being deployed on a larger scale than now that emits no carbon, you don’t need a Phd (doctorate) to work out that it has got an awful lot of potential,” he told Reuters in London.
The civil nuclear industry, which saw its future evaporating after the reactor explosion at Chernobyl in 1986 sent a pall of radioactive dust across Europe, has seen its prospects improve dramatically in the hunt for a solution to global warming.
Scientists say temperatures will rise by between 1.8 and 3.0 degrees Celsius this century from carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels for power and transport, causing climate havoc.
Nuclear proponents say their technology is carbon free, although opponents challenge that saying mining, refining and transport all generate carbon emissions.
The IPCC report noted that nuclear power provides about 16 percent of the world’s electricity and said that figure could rise to 18 percent by 2030.
But the head of Austria’s climate change unit at the Bangkok talks said the figure had been contentious.
“It could give the impression that the IPCC is projecting a significant increase in the contribution of nuclear power,” said Klaus Radunksy. “This was politicising the IPCC and that in our view, is not appropriate.”
Bert Metz, co-chair of the IPCC group that wrote the report, stressed that it was not an endorsement of nuclear power.
“It is absolutely a technical review. We are not making policy recommendations,” he said.
Unabashed, Hore-Lacy said far from stopping at 18 percent the industry had its sights set on a figure closer to the 80 percent of electricity that nuclear power provides in France.
He noted that in Japan -- hit by the world’s first nuclear bombs -- nuclear power produced 29 percent of electricity, while in Ukraine -- site of Chernobyl -- it was 45 percent.
The IPCC did note worries over nuclear safety, weapons proliferation and waste.
Hore-Lacy shrugged most of these off, but did agree that proliferation could be an issue unless handled correctly.
Additional reporting by Darren Schuettler and David Fogarty in Bangkok
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