Nuclear power, a climate change mitigation option

​Meet​ Fredrik Hedenus, Assistant Professor, from the Division of Physical Resource Theory, at the Department of Energy and Environment.​​​
Please, give us a description of your current research? 
I research on the consequences of global up-scaling of nuclear energy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. What is the effect on costs, which technologies would we need, what are the implications for the risk of nuclear weapon proliferation?

Furthermore we also study nuclear power whereon we use a modelling approach to measure nuclear power as a possible action to limit the magnitude of long-term climate change, but also consider other goals such as reducing waste and improve energy security. In other words we study win-win and trade-offs between different energy policy goals.

What are the latest developments in your area? 
My PhD student just defended her licentiate thesis “Nuclear Power as a Climate Change Mitigation Option: a Modelling Approach” . And we have further developed our cooperation with IIASA in Austria.

Which future challenges do you find most exciting? 

I think it would be interesting to understand how nuclear energy could work with large penetration of solar and wind power. That means that from times to times it might be a lot of cheap electricity, and at those times the nuclear power plants have to shut down, but at other times output has to be regulated up at short notice too. Thus, can a nuclear power plant be designed to not only work as base load plants? And what would the economic consequences be?

In which way, could your research benefit society at large? 
I think it is important to evaluate and assess all potential technologies that could contribute to the future energy system. Researchers have the time and position to think a bit further ahead and in the larger picture. That can help society to choose which technologies to develop a bit more wisely.

Are there any myths in society coupled to your research that you would take the opportunity to debunk?
That nuclear energy is necessary to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. There are several technological options, for instance wind power, solar energy, fossil fuels with carbon capture and storage and bioenergy. Nuclear energy must be weighted against these when it comes to costs and risks. There is no necessity.

But it is also a myth that nuclear energy emits substantial amount of greenhouse gases. Per kWh the emissions are about the same as for wind power.

Read more about Fredrik's research (in Swedish)

Text: Christophe Eléhn

Foto: Jan-Olof Yxell

Page manager Published: Wed 04 Jun 2014.