Barry Brook

Professor Barry Brook holds the Foundation Sir Hubert Wilkins Chair of Climate Change and is Director of Climate Science at The Environment Institute, University of Adelaide. He has published two books and over 150 peer-reviewed scientific papers, and regularly writes opinion pieces and popular articles for the media. He has received a number of distinguished awards in recognition of his research excellence, which addresses the topics of climate change, computational and statistical modelling and the synergies between human impacts on Earth systems.

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by Staffan A. Qvist and Barry W. Brook

There is an ongoing debate about the deployment rates and composition of alternative energy plans that could feasibly displace fossil fuels globally by mid-century, as required to avoid the more extreme impacts of climate change. Here we demonstrate the potential for a large-scale expansion of global nuclear power to replace fossil-fuel electricity production, based on empirical data from the Swedish and French light water reactor programs of the 1960s to 1990s.

Analysis of these historical deployments show that if the world built nuclear power at no more than the per capita rate of these exemplar nations during their national expansion, then coal- and gas-fired electricity could be replaced worldwide in less than a decade.

Under more conservative projections that take into account probable constraints and uncertainties such as differing relative economic output across regions, current and past unit construction time and costs, future electricity demand growth forecasts and the retiring of existing aging nuclear plants, our modelling estimates that the global share of fossil-fuel-derived electricity could be replaced within 25–34 years. This would allow the world to meet the most stringent greenhouse-gas mitigation targets.