Challenges of Change in the Nuclear Industry

Global economy is based on continuous growth. That is interesting because, as even a small child understands, continuous and unlimited growth is impossible. Growth can continue until it has consumed its “fuel”, and then turn to degrowth. So, why are intelligent people happily living in a society whose economy is based on impossible principles?

Of course all population in nature try to reach as strong position as possible in their living environment to ensure their existence – which means they try to grow. We can say that growth is the basic instinct of a population. However, has the growth guaranteed survival in the history?

Change Is a Necessity for Survival

Both the dinosaurs and the Roman Empire were dominating for a long time but they still disappeared. In many sports and in business one team or company can dominate the field even for long periods of time, but at some point of time another team or company goes past them taking the lead even quite dramatically. What could have saved the leaders if not their size? Change!

“Nuclear energy is in a political headwind when solar and wind are progressing in strong and steady tailwind in Europe.”

Continuous growth is an impossibility whereas continuous change is a necessity. In the history of the earth just few organisms have been able to survive without continuous change. Cockroaches and crocodiles have survived but the giant dinosaurs disappeared. Nokia was the biggest mobile phone maker in the world but after they were not able to change, they disappeared. So, even when a radical change is a necessity for survival, it's not easy. A huge resistance to it still exists.

Energy Business in Need of Change

Energy business is currently in the beginning of a big change due to several factors such as environmental requirements, adequacy of raw materials and digitalization. Energiewende in Germany, for example, and strong push to the development of different kinds of energy technologies in China is changing the field of energy business in the Western countries. Traditional baseload energy such as nuclear will have the biggest challenge in the future. Nuclear energy is in a political headwind when solar and wind are progressing in strong and steady tailwind in Europe.

However, the need for clean and reliable baseload energy production is not disappearing. Nuclear energy will be needed also in the future but possibly in a different role. Nuclear power plants should operate in the same electrical grid with the unstable energy sources such as solar and wind energy.

“What could have saved the leaders if not their size? Change!”

Nuclear energy is naturally baseload energy but maybe not 50 years from now. Need of change is obvious in the nuclear industry as is new ways of thinking, and maybe a new kind of power plants. New and better communication with the society is definitely required to guarantee the future of energy production by nuclear power in the Western countries.

Change to Fight Climate Change

Even if the need for change is clear, it is very difficult in practice. Most people in the industry understand the need but real changes are not made. People are willing to do small fixes but when there is the need to change the whole direction, small fixes are not enough.

Nuclear and hydro power are currently the only large scale methods to produce CO2 free baseload energy. If people in the nuclear industry cannot make the change, nuclear energy will gradually disappear, which will have a remarkable effect on the possibilities to fight against the global climate change. But is this enough to motivate people in the nuclear industry to change the whole industry?

It is something we will see during the next 10 to 20 years. If we want nuclear energy to be part of the solution of the climate change, the nuclear industry has to understand that continuous change is their lifeline.