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The Major Challenges of Nuclear Energy

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) near Geneva is the world's most powerful particle accelerator. Experiments at the LHC confirmed the discovery of the Higgs Boson, a fundamental component in the structure of matter. © AFP PHOTO / RICHARD JUILLIART

The major challenges facing the nuclear industry include ensuring power plant safety, protecting reactors from natural disasters and external aggression, and finding effective solutions for long-term waste management. Nuclear power's role in a decarbonized energy mix that can help limit global warming will depend on how these challenges are met. The Generation IV reactors on which the international community is currently working are part of the solution. 

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Although the nuclear industry is strictly regulated and remarkably safe, the seriousness of accidents, when they do occur, and their immediate global impact and effect on public opinion, make any serious malfunctions unacceptable.

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The management of radioactive waste presents unique challenges because the radioactive materials cannot be recycled. Contrary to popular belief, the nuclear powerIn physics, power is the amount of energy supplied by a system per unit time. In simpler terms, power can be viewed as energy output... industry is not responsible for all radioactive waste. In France for example, 38% of radioactive waste is produced by the national defense, research and medical industries. ElectricityForm of energy resulting from the movement of charged particles (electrons) through a conductor... generation accounts for the remaining 62%. 

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As a low-carbon energy source, nuclear energyEnergy produced in nuclear power plants. The enormous amount of heat released during fission of uranium atom nuclei is transferred to water... is useful in the fight against climate change. However, the nuclear powerIn physics, power is the amount of energy supplied by a system per unit time. In simpler terms, power can be viewed as energy output... industry is faced with the dual challenge of declining uraniumGray, very dense radioactive metal that is relatively abundant in the Earth's crust and oceans in the form of UO2... resources and radioactive waste management. The solutions to these issues lie in innovation and the development of more fuel-efficient fourth-generation reactors.

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