Elon Musk says Europe should return to nuclear energy amid the Ukraine crisis

Some say it could help ease Europe's reliance on foreign energy.
Ameya Paleja
Elon Musk.Alamy/Reuters

Technoking Elon Musk thinks that Europe should restart its dormant nuclear power stations and called it an obvious choice in a Sunday evening tweet.

Musk's tweet has come within days of Russian troops attacking the largest nuclear power plant in Europe, leading to fears of radiation leaks. However, Musk seems unperturbed by them, going even further to call them a "mistake." While the latter is better debated with nuclear energy experts, Musk does have a point with regards to nuclear power and energy security.

Centers of Power

The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in the news recently single-handedly meets 20 percent of Ukraine's energy needs. According to the World Nuclear Association, 440 nuclear power plants in 33 countries supplied 2553 TWh of electricity in 2020, about 10 percent of the world's energy consumption.   

Countries such as China, Russia, and India are building new nuclear power plants while European countries like Germany have a planned program that involves shutting down six functional plants by 2022. Italy has already shut down its nuclear plant while Austria never used a nuclear facility it built. Belgium, Spain, and Switzerland have also planned a nuclear phase-out by the end of the decade.

In the wake of the Ukraine crisis, Musk has raised a fair point to counter the European dependence on Russia for its energy which is not surprising given his previous views on the technology. 

Nuclear as a safe, no-emission source of power

Last year, Musk had said that extremely safe nuclear power plants were a possibility and reasoned about choosing nuclear in another tweet. 

This view is also shared by others such as Bill Gates whose company Terra Power is attempting new types of nuclear reactors and President Biden himself whose recent infrastructure law has set aside $6 billion to preserve nuclear power reactors in the U.S., CNBC reported. The U.S. military is also looking at a mobile nuclear power station to address their energy needs overseas, while NASA wants to power missions on the Moon using nuclear energy. 

In the face of threats to energy security, countries in Europe would probably be better off sticking longer with their existing infrastructure than trying to rapidly switch to renewables that still need to be scaled up immensely to address the energy demand. This advice works for the U.S too. 

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