With Artic smelting, sustainable development must be a priority

With Artic smelting, sustainable development must be a priority

The Arctic is known for its glacial temperatures and pristine ice shelves? in short for its eternally frozen beauty. However, it is common knowledge that this environmental magnitude changes rapidly as Arctic temperatures rise at an ever faster rate, to the extent that, according to the Russian Meteorological Service, the Arctic ice cover is now five to seven times thinner compared to the 1980s, which contributes to the Arctic Ocean becoming increasingly ice-free during the summer.

Temperatures in the Arctic are currently rising three times faster than the global average, resulting in a more accessible Arctic? one which is not only expected to hand over its natural resources, but which will inevitably also be the subject of greater socio-economic development. While the impetus for development in locks with increasing economic opportunities is considered anything but inevitable, the threatening question is how this can be done in a sustainable way.

All Arctic nations, including Russia, the United States, Canada, Norway, Finland, Iceland, Sweden and Denmark, thus face a complex dilemma: having to square the circle between using a changing Arctic and doing so in a way that avoids destroying a of the last almost untouched natural environments on the planet.

Russia, more than any other country, is expected to make long-term investments in its Arctic territory with a view to developing the Northern Sea Route (NSR), which would not only diversify worldwide logistics routes but also reduce delivery times between Europe and Asia. During Russia’s Arctic Day? In July, the nuclear power company Rosatom undertook to build sustainable transport infrastructure along the NSR as part of long-term investments aimed at promoting environmentally sensitive regions for commercial shipping.

Although these commitments highlight the urgent need for sustainability, the NSR project represents what is at the heart of the dilemma facing Russia and other Arctic countries: the fact that this development? characterized by significant investment in the expansion of the extractive industries and, above all, a growing modern population familiar with modern technology? requires a lot of energy and construction of relevant infrastructure. But burning more fossil fuels to achieve these changes is not a desirable option, nor should non-renewable energy sources be used to extract more oil and gas, which only feeds a vicious circle that is already spinning out of control.

For this reason, the Arctic countries are increasingly looking for alternative energy sources to drive these transformations. In addition to renewable energy, countries such as Russia, the United States and Canada are exploring the possibility of using nuclear power in the form of small modular reactors (SMRs) as a sustainable long-term energy source in Artic. According to Rauli Partanen, a Finnish expert and analyst on climate change and energy systems, this is an ideal solution:? Nuclear power in general is and can be designed to work well in almost any environment, so in that sense, is it an ideal technology even for tough conditions ?, Partanen tells Sustainability Times.

SMR in particular offers an excellent alternative energy source for local communities, as their application goes beyond simple energy production. ? New types of advanced and small reactors that are now being developed are often designed with other uses than just electricity production in mind ?, Partanen explains. As a result, they can also be used for industrial activities that would otherwise require the use of fossil fuels.

? Smaller sizes and higher temperatures make them good for producing energy services such as industrial steam, high temperatures for more efficient electrolysis for hydrogen and P2X production and combined heat and power for electricity and district heating, which are in great demand in the Arctic region.?

It is important that SMR can also respond to another development challenge, namely to be able to build infrastructure in the harsh Arctic climate. In fact, the current lack of infrastructure and the difficulties in developing it are considered one of the biggest obstacles to energy investment. In recent years, this challenge has been exacerbated by the thawing of permafrost, which makes the soil too unstable for heavy structures and large-scale electricity networks. However, floating SMRs, such as Russia’s Academy Lomonosov, the world’s first fully operational ship-based SMR, provide a viable solution to such issues.

? An alternative for coastal locations is to have floating nuclear power plants at sea or near the shore, for example Akademic Lomonosov, which Russia built a couple of years ago ?, claims Partanen. ? Akademik Lomonosov offers a good proof of the concept with the idea of ​​a floating power plant, and in the future this concept can be further refined and reduce costs by designing the vessel and the reactors for this use from the beginning. And with lower costs, this market is expanding enormously, as most major cities are located on the coast and have a rapidly growing need for many energy products, from electricity to district heating to desalinated water and even synthetic fuel.?

Due to its light and small size compared to conventional power plants, nuclear power plants and others, can SMR be located in the middle of local communities, making long-distance transport infrastructure, including transmission lines or pipelines, largely unnecessary in favor of localized micro-networks? an idea that many of the new nuclear power developers had in mind from the beginning.

Next to the Akademik Lomonosov design, Oklo’s concept from the USA is another example. ? Oklo’s microreactor design was designed specifically for isolated networks around mines and smaller towns and villages. The advantage here is that although they are likely to cost more than ordinary electricity production, they compete with imported diesel and generators which are very expensive. Similar arguments can be made for islands that are not connected to mainland networks and often rely on diesel generators and expensive, imported fuel ?, Partanen tells Sustainability Times.

The fact that new nuclear power solutions can easily replace fossil fuels is important, especially in the light of criticism that small and medium-sized enterprises cannot compete in terms of the costs of these fossil fuels and renewable energy sources. But according to Partanen, such criticism lacks the bigger picture:? In the short term, SMRs do not have to compete with fossil fuels in general, but they are more expensive as imports of diesel. Nor can renewable energy sources such as wind and solar offer local communities reliable energy at low cost, especially since there is no cheap import alternative that countries such as Denmark and Germany currently rely on to keep the grid reliable.?

What this means in the big picture is that sustainable development with low carbon emissions in the Arctic region is indeed possible, and among experts there is a growing consensus that no road will lead past the deployment of small modular reactors. With global warming affecting the Arctic at an ever-increasing rate, decision-makers must ensure that the human impact on the Arctic environment is mitigated as much as possible in the future.

Photo: Lisa Ouellette / Flickr

The post With Artic Smelting, sustainable development must be prioritized first in the Sustainability Times.

Source: Shelf life

Source: sn.dk

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