Russian state atomic energy corporation Rosatom has launched a new nuclear awareness initiative called “Atoms for Humanity” about how this clean energy technology transforms peoples’ lives. The initiative was launched with an online event last week titled “Why Humanity Needs Nuclear” that was watched by over 3,200 people from 40 countries.
Moderating the launch event, Kirsty Gogan, the Managing Director of Lucid Catalyst and co-founder of the NGO TerraPraxis, which works on issues of climate change and prosperity, said the Atoms for Humanity project is aimed at demonstrating through human-centered stories the importance of nuclear technologies in achieving the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) .
“The energy sector is undergoing a profound transition driven by the need to expand access to clean energy and boost socio-economic development, especially in emerging economies, limiting, at the same time, the impact of climate change, pollution and other unfolding environmental crises”, Gogan said.
“This transition requires a shift from polluting energy sources to sustainable, clean alternatives. The UN 2030 Sustainable Development Goals are indispensable to navigating this shift from polluting energy sources. Nuclear saves lives by preventing air pollution, transforms lives by lifting people out of energy poverty and provides lifelong opportunities for young engineers and scientists”, she added.
The website dedicated to the initiative said that in order to power a better future, the world needs a clean and reliable source of energy, like nuclear. “However, modern nuclear technology is much more than green electricity. It is a versatile tool needed to solve the most urgent challenges of today and tomorrow. An end to poverty and hunger, rise of vibrant economies, and sustainable environment – this is better living through nuclear. Unfortunately, many people around the world see nuclear as yet another source of electricity. They never realize that it is indispensable to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals, which is the global blueprint for building a sustainable future”, Rosatom said.
The project launch event brought together Rosatom’s Chief Sustainability Officer Polina Lion, World Nuclear Association (WNA) Director General Sama Bilbao y León, the World Energy Council member Maher Aziz, Bright New World founder Ben Heard, as well as the Head of Central Engineering and Plant Directorate at the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) Sergio Orlandi. The heroes of the Atoms for Humanity project joined the event to share their stories and experiences of participating in the campaign.
“Achieving sustainable development goals is impossible without a sustainable energy source. Nuclear is the only energy source, which is both reliable and low-carbon. It works 24/7, it produces no direct CO2 emissions and leaves almost zero waste behind,” said Polina Lion.
The WNA’s Bilbao y León noted that nuclear energy contributes to having reliable, resilient and uninterrupted energy supply. “We are in the middle of this terrible COVID-19 pandemic and we are seeing everyday how essential having access to 24/7 electricity is to cope with this crisis. And of course, the fact that nuclear energy is very low-emission technology is going to ensure that we have clean air, clean water and plenty of open space to have health communities”, she said.
Noting that nuclear energy projects are an enormous catalyst for socio-economic development with their “trickle down benefits for society” through job creation and generating prosperity, León also pointed to the very important role played by nuclear technology in the health of communities globally and in public health. She listed the various applications of nuclear technology in dignostics such as x-rays, in radio pharmaceuticals, drug discovery, as well as in treatment of serious ailments like cancers.
Heard described nuclear energy as a “holistic package” of benefits that includes not just energy, but health and the environment as well. “Wind and solar energy do not give us this freedom. If we can take up the energy challenge with something that we can scale up (like nuclear), then we can make a difference in terms of sustainability and the environment”, Heard said. “For instance, with clean energy we can extract more resources from the mines. We can produce more in agriculture from less land, and so return the land, restore it to nature”, he added.
Orlandi explained why the success of international cooperation at ITER was important for the future of humanity. “ITER is something very delicate and very challenging but I really believe that the magnitude of the project motivates us and gives us the capacity to move forward. We know very well that we are at the frontier of new technology, on the frontier of a scientific breakthrough. We know that we are making something historical and beneficial for humanity. We need clean energy for the entire world,” he said.
The machine assembly of the ITER “tokamak” nuclear fusion reactor, which began in July last year at Cadarache in France, is designed to replicate the fusion power of the sun in order to enable generation of clean unlimited energy, and the first ultra-hot plasma is expected to be generated in late 2025. The world’s largest science project involving ITER’s 35 partner countries is intended to demonstrate that fusion power can be generated on a commercial scale. ITER’s realising of a self-heating plasma is expected to generate 10 times more heat than is put in. Fusion provides clean, reliable energy without carbon emissions, with minute amounts of fuel and no physical possibility of an accident with meltdown.The fuel for fusion is found in seawater and lithium, while it is abundant enough to supply the world for millions of years. A football-sized amount of this fuel is equivalent to around 10,000 tons of coal.