Russia-Ukraine war evokes Europe’s privatized ‘nuclear renaissance,’ over $400 million raised
The energy crisis due to the ongoing Russia-Ukrain war has led to a sprout of private companies in Europe expediting a "nuclear renaissance."
Even before the end of the year, over U.S. $400 million has been raised in 2022 by nuclear startups in Europe, Business Insider reported on Tuesday.
"Russia's war in Ukraine and its subsequent impact on energy prices has strengthened the case for nuclear" energy, Munir Hassan, head of energy and climate at law firm Cameron McKenna Nabarro Olswang LLP (CMS), told Business Insider.
"The conversation has changed," he said. "I think that there will finally be the nuclear renaissance we've been talking about for 15 years."
Nuclear power is "absolutely essential" for sustaining offshore wind by supplying the base power, according to professor Juan Matthews, from the University of Manchester's Dalton Nuclear Institute, U.K.
"It's a huge step," said Matthews." It's important that people realize no power system, at the moment, has zero carbon emissions. You have to build things, and until we completely strip out carbon-producing energy production."
There will always be some residual carbon in the things you create, added Matthews, a former U.K. state employee. "Offshore wind and nuclear have about the same carbon footprint, which is very, very low."
European startups are developing new reactors, including ones the size of shipping containers, as well as high-temperature magnets that are used to hold the chemical reaction in place.
Many of the current developments in nuclear technology are being supported by these startups.
Here are the new companies that are setting the benchmark in the resurgent industry, according to Business Insider.
1. Newcleo, London, U.K.
The startup aims to lower the price of developing and producing nuclear energy to contribute more to the shift away from fossil fuels. While the technology is still in its infancy, it may aid French and U.K. efforts to scale up new nuclear technologies as part of broader initiatives to develop dependable, carbon-free energy sources.
The company raised around U.S. $315 million in June.
2. Tokamak Energy, Oxford, U.K.
A fusion power firm called Tokamak Energy makes tokamak reactors, which are frequently donut-shaped. In order to produce nuclear energy, it has created a spherical tokamak reactor with High-Temperature Superconducting (HTS) magnets.
The company has raised around U.S. $169 million.
3. First Light Fusion, Oxford, U.K.
According to the firm, its approach to fusion is "innovative and unique." It compresses a target carrying fusion fuel using a bullet traveling at an extraordinarily high velocity to provide the temperatures and pressure required for fusion.
The company has raised around U.S. $87 million.
4. LeadCold Reactors, Stockholm, Sweden.
Small modular nuclear reactors (SMR) are being developed by LeadCold using lead-cooled technology rather than water. The technology can be mass-produced in an automated plant, according to the company.
The company has raised around U.S. $16.2 million.
5. Renaissance Fusion, Grenoble, France.
The trickiest and most rewarding energy challenge has a "breakthrough solution," according to Renaissance Fusion. Its goal is to integrate fusion energy into the grid.
The company has raised around U.S. $15.7 million.
Re-emergence of nuclear energy in Europe
France relies heavily on nuclear energy, with its 56 reactors supplying around 70 percent of the country's electricity. Yet, roughly U.S. $50 billion will be spent by the french government on six new reactors.
German officials recently changed their minds about keeping their vow to phase down nuclear power by the end of the year and decided to run their remaining units into April 2023 instead.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), in its 2021 report, took into account nuclear energy in each of its four routes to net zero emissions.
Because of catastrophes like Chornobyl and Fukushima, European governments have long avoided nuclear power.
They have primarily shunned the energy source due to safety concerns and the high upfront cost associated with erecting power plants.
However, due to growing energy costs, mostly brought on by the Russia-Ukraine war, and failed attempts to achieve net zero, Europe's politicians have reassessed their focus on renewable energy, labeling power plant investments as "climate-friendly."
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