President Joe Biden addresses business leaders on Thursday at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in San Francisco. After the summit, the Biden administration announced a pact with China to triple the world’s capacity for generating renewable energy by 2030
The United States is preparing to announce a pledge to triple the world’s production of nuclear energy by 2050, with more than 10 countries on four continents already signed on to the first major international agreement in modern history to ramp up the use of atomic power.
Signatories to the pledge, set to be unveiled at the United Nations climate summit in Dubai later this month, include many of the largest current users of nuclear energy such as the United Kingdom, France, Romania, Sweden, the United Arab Emirates, Japan and South Korea, a senior Biden administration official familiar with the efforts confirmed HuffPost. A handful of newcomers that have not yet built reactors, including Poland, Ghana and Morocco, are also said to have joined the pledge.
The plan will put pressure on the World Bank to end its long-standing ban on financing nuclear-energy projects, which the American Nuclear Society, a nonprofit of academics and industry professionals who advocate for atomic energy in the public interest, said was crucial to any buildout.
“Tripling the world’s nuclear energy supplies by 2050 is the catalyst required to halt rising temperatures and achieve a sustainable future,” the ANS said in a statement to HuffPost. “A large-scale build-out of new nuclear energy can only happen with the crafting of nuclear-inclusive lending policies by financial institutions like the World Bank.”
More countries are expected to sign on to the pledge before international negotiators convene in Dubai on Nov. 30 for the 28th Conference of the Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change ― known as COP28 ― the annual two-week summit aimed at brokering a global deal to speed up efforts to slash planet-heating emissions and help countries already suffering from the effects of climate change. The 2015 conference is what yielded the watershed Paris Agreement, the first pact to include the world whole in an effort to cut emissions enough to keep the planet’s temperature from climbing above 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.3 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial averages. The world has already warmed by at least 1.1 degrees Celsius.
“It’s great to see the extension of this commitment to countries like Ghana and Morocco for whom nuclear could be a game-changing technology for energy reliability and emissions reduction,” said Jackie Toth, the deputy director of the progressive pro-nuclear group Good Energy Collective. “Energy demand in Africa is going to scale significantly in the coming decades, so if we’re going to hit our global climate goals, a lot of the new capacity in Africa is going to need to be carbon free.”
Reactors for Units 3 and 4 sit at Georgia Power's Plant Vogtle nuclear power plant on Jan. 20 in Waynesboro, Georgia, as cooling towers of the older Units 1 and 2 billowing steam. Unit 3, completed in July, is the first new reactor built from scratch in the U.S. in a generation.
When reached by phone Thursday, Toth said she had just left a meeting in Washington of the Biden administration’s Civil Nuclear Trade Advisory Committee at which officials from the Commerce Department, State Department, Energy Department and other federal agencies discussed ways to boost U.S. exports.
Unlike the Obama administration, which canceled key nuclear projects for what the federal government’s own watchdog called political purposes and stacked the Nuclear Regulatory Commission with hard-lineopponents of atomic energy, the Biden White House has adopted what Toth described as a “concerted whole-of-government effort” to “support nuclear energy as an important component of a clean-energy transition.”
The nuclear pledge, details of which Bloomberg first reported, represents one of the most ambitious attempts by the U.S. yet to reassert itself as an exporter of atomic energy technology. For decades, Russia has dominated the export market, with its state-owned Rosatom nuclear company offering a one-stop shop for reactors, uranium fuel and financing. Nearly one-third of the roughly 60 reactors under construction worldwide are Russian designs, including the debut nuclear plants underway in Turkey, Egypt and Bangladesh. Moscow’s virtual monopoly over key types of nuclear fuel has made Rosatom immune to the sanctions the U.S. and Europe have piled on Russian gas, oil and mineral exports in the nearly two years since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began.
Ghana President Nana Akufo-Addo speaks at a state banquet at the Jubilee House in Accra, Ghana, on March 27, during a visit by U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris. Ghana, which has yet to build a reactor, has joined the pledge for a global increase in the use of nuclear energy.
Though China has yet to begin exporting its nuclear technology, Beijing has emerged as the world’s new atomic energy superpower, building its own plants so efficiently that the country completed four of America’s flagship new large-scale reactors before the U.S. could complete even one. China is widely expected to enter the export market in the coming years and reportedly offered to help Saudi Arabia build its first nuclear plant in what was widely seen as a direct challenge to the U.S.
Saudi Arabia is not currently part of the Biden administration’s nuclear pledge.
In a sign of cooperation between the world’s two largest emitters of greenhouse gases, the Biden administration this week announced a separate pact with China to triple the world’s capacity for generating renewable energy, such as wind and solar power, by 2030. The White House unveiled the deal during a diplomatic summit in San Francisco that included President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Backing up the same goal in the agreement with China, the Biden administration is forging a separate pact co-led by the European Union and the UAE to triple renewables. More than 70 countries, including much of the African continent, have already backed the renewable energy pledge, and the official said more are signing on by the day.
The U.S. push to address climate change also includes a pact to work on deploying carbon capture technology ― an umbrella term for hardware that filters carbon dioxide out of smokestacks before the heat-trapping gas enters the atmosphere ― with an aim of bringing at least a dozen other countries on board before the start of COP28.