Mark Mills, economics21.org, Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute: Building one wind turbine requires 900 tons of steel, 2,500 tons of concrete and 45 tons of nonrecyclable plastic. Solar power requires even more cement, steel and glass—not to mention other metals. Global silver and indium mining will jump 250% and 1,200%. World demand for rare-earth elements—which aren’t rare but are rarely mined in America—will rise 300% to 1,000% by 2050 to meet the Paris green goals. If electric vehicles replace conventional cars, demand for cobalt and lithium, will rise more than 20-fold. That doesn’t count batteries to back up wind and solar grids.
Zabrina Johal, The Hill: DoD believes small reactors could help solve that problem, so it has solicited proposals for deployable nuclear generators. Here’s the key: It hopes to swiftly select the most promising designs. Should it be successful, this project could offer a blueprint for more ambitious “picking of winners” among small and medium-sized advanced reactors. Assuming we can identify the leadership to take charge of it, we must make it happen.
Bill Gates, Microsoft: Many people without reliable access to electricity live in rural villages where even health clinics can’t count on having power. After an outage, doctors sometimes have no way of telling whether the life-saving vaccines in their refrigerators have spoiled. It can be even more stressful if a power outage occurs at night. Sometimes health workers have no choice but to treat patients by candlelight, or by the light of a mobile phone.
Kelvin Kemm is a nuclear physicist, Chairman of the South African Nuclear Energy Corporation and CEO of Nuclear Africa (Pty) Ltd: South Africa is the nuclear power poster child for countries across Africa and around the world. They have everything needed to expand their nuclear power program. They have been working to promote use of nuclear power, nuclear medicine and nuclear science across the Continent of Africa. It is one of the best examples of countries wanting to use this very important energy source.
Jonathan Lesser, Economist, President, Continental Economics: Nuclear power provides valuable benefits. It is highly reliable, emissions-free, and offers far greater power densities than renewable resources. It has proved its value in extreme weather events, when fossil-fuel generation has been unable to deliver because of supply constraints and operational issues. It also provides additional diversity, which can reduce the adverse impacts of fuel price shocks. At this time, the best hope for the nuclear industry appears to be SMR technology.