The United States and 21 other countries pledged on Saturday at the United Nations climate summit in Dubai to triple nuclear energy capacity by 2050, saying the revival of nuclear power was critical for cutting carbon emissions to near zero in the coming decades.
Proponents of nuclear energy, which supplies 18 percent of electricity in the United States, say it is a clean, safe and reliable complement to wind and solar energy. But a significant hurdle is funding. Last month, a developer of small nuclear reactors in Idaho said it was canceling a project that had been expected to be part of a new wave of power plants. The cost of building the reactors had risen to $9.3 billion from $5.3 billion because of increasing interest rates and inflation.
Britain, Canada, France, Ghana, South Korea, Sweden and the United Arab Emirates were among the 22 countries that signed the declaration to triple capacity from 2020 levels.
John Kerry, President Biden’s climate envoy, said that there were “trillions of dollars” available that could be used for investment in nuclear. “We are not making the argument to anybody that this is absolutely going to be the sweeping alternative to every other energy source — no, that’s not what brings us here,” he said. But, he added, the science has shown that “you can’t get to net-zero 2050 without some nuclear.”
President Emmanuel Macron of France said nuclear energy, including small modular reactors, was an “indispensable solution” to efforts to curb climate change. France is Europe’s biggest producer of nuclear power.
Mr. Macron and other leaders, including Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson of Sweden, called on the World Bank and international financial institutions to help finance nuclear projects. Mr. Kristersson said that governments must “assume a role in sharing the financial risks to strengthen the conditions and provide additional incentives for investment in nuclear energy.”
While world leaders on Saturday called nuclear the most effective alternative to fossil fuels, some climate activists expressed skepticism.
Masayoshi Iyoda, an activist from Japan with 350.org, an international climate action campaign, cited the nuclear disaster at Fukushima in 2011 and said that nuclear power was a dangerous distraction from decarbonization goals. “It is simply too costly, too risky, too undemocratic and too time-consuming,” he said in a statement.
“We already have cheaper, safer, democratic and faster solutions to the climate crisis, and they are renewable energy and energy efficiency,” Mr. Iyoda said.