Navigating the Path of Least Resistance to Sustainable, Widespread Adoption of Nuclear Power

Alistair Holdsworth, Edmund Ireland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


With climate change rapidly accelerating, we must seriously reconsider our inconsistent and, at times, disjointed approach to energy grid decarbonisation by applying extant low-carbon technologies rapidly and at scale rather than continuing to rely on fossil fuel generation. In contrast to more transient renewables such as wind and solar energy, nuclear power is capable of reliably generating large quantities of baseload low-carbon energy. Despite this advantage, however, deployment has stagnated due to a combination of high costs, safety concerns, and an unwillingness of political authorities to commit to a large-scale, publicly funded program. The focus on private sector leadership in R&D has resulted in a smorgasbord of under-developed and conceptual reactor and fuel cycle technologies, many of which are a decade or more from commercial viability. Meanwhile, the aforementioned political issues have prevented the necessary long-term funding, incentivisation, or provision of the necessary market structures for the significant construction of actual generating plants. With this in mind, we present a potential path to a long-term sustainable approach to the nuclear fuel cycle, highlighting key reactor and fuel cycle technologies and providing an overview of how these should be implemented. Additionally, we discuss the industrial, political, and societal changes needed to achieve this through the comprehensive management of both waste and resources.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2141
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 5 Mar 2024


  • Net Zero
  • circular economy
  • climate change
  • decarbonisation
  • nuclear fuel cycle
  • reactor
  • reprocessing
  • resource management
  • sustainability
  • waste management


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