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These nations may see China’s and India’s fates—economic growth at the expense of public health—as an obstacle to bypass.”Notably, ten countries accounting for about 40 percent of global energy demand—including three without reactors—incorporated nuclear into their Paris climate pledges.
In particular, the United States should promote innovation in its advanced nuclear designs. To avoid falling behind, the United States will have to support the development of these technologies, including small modular reactors (SMRs), which may prove more resistant to meltdowns and cheaper to operate.
Supplying Saudi America already has a significant opportunity to get back in the nuclear game—one of its allies could provide a credible chance for U. suppliers to re-establish themselves in the market.
Nuclear has been traditionally limited to the world’s wealthiest nations because today’s reactors have high upfront costs and generate far too much power for smaller electricity grids.
SMRs stand to eliminate both of these barriers: For developing countries, the dangers that climate change pose provide a pressing need for zero-carbon power, and new nuclear designs provide a viable option.
Saudi Arabia should be concerned that warming in the Middle East is expected to exceed twice the world average, potentially making the region uninhabitable into the midcentury and accelerating the impetus for reducing electric power emissions.
Still, it would be unwise to take Riyadh at its word that its nuclear program would be a purely peaceful endeavor.Next year, Saudi Arabia will hand out contracts for two nuclear reactors, the first of sixteen overall that Riyadh plans to construct by 2040.The Kingdom has its own reasons, including those previously discussed, in pursuing clean energy options like commercial nuclear.Saudi Arabia has the ninth highest ambient air pollution in the world, and power demand is growing by 7 to 9 percent annually, raising the prospect of even more fossil fuel-driven pollution.Preserving crude for export rather than consumption would also protect crucial revenues.Even in a future with far more wind and solar, nuclear reactors could benefit—rather than suffer—from renewables’ explosive growth (see a 2017 Greentech Media article for an explainer on synergies between nuclear and renewables).Moscow’s Nuclear Diplomacy and Beijing’s Nuclear Belt and Road However, this rising demand in the developing world has complicated geopolitical impacts, because the construction of a nuclear reactor begins a long-term relationship between supplier and buyer, which the supplier can exploit for strategic ends.The Pains of Atomic Commerce The United States has led in creating global nuclear norms and exporting nuclear reactors since the inception of nuclear power in the 1950s. However, the United States now lags behind its geopolitical rivals, Russia and China. The state-owned nuclear companies of China and Russia are directly lobbied for by top leaders, and their projects are given major financial support by state banks. Policymakers could take several steps toward reforming the nuclear export control process, and recent reports from Third Way and the Nuclear Innovation Alliance have laid out potential approaches to doing so. While maintaining nonproliferation standards is critical to safeguarding global peace, the United States has been unnecessarily slow in negotiating these agreements. nuclear industry is still regarded as the leader in nuclear technology, and can compete if given a fair playing field.Exporting nuclear technology served as a diplomatic tool to build goodwill and strengthen ties with other nations, as well as creating a broader market for U. Other countries like Russia and China have been more proactive in securing nuclear agreements in countries where demand for nuclear power is likely to grow. The Trump administration has pledged to revitalize the U. nuclear energy industry— to do so, it can guide its companies by streamlining and clarifying the export process and by supporting technological innovation. companies currently lead in developing advanced nuclear technologies, but China and Russia are investing heavily in this space.The United States, which used to lead in nuclear technology exports, has fallen behind because of restrictive export regulations.To get back in the game—and secure economic and security advantages that the growing export market presents—the United States should simplify export controls and invest in innovative nuclear technologies.