Theoretically, nuclear fission could play a big role in providing energy-rich lifestyles to people around the world without climate change.
At the same time, there are severe economic, social, and political headwinds to even maintaining existing capacity, much less building more.
Now, I fear that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will add further causes for concern. Ukraine has four nuclear plants and 15 operating reactors — any of which could be damaged intentionally or unintentionally by combat, or which could experience a station blackout if the electricity grid goes down.
Russia’s actions are calling into question longstanding assumptions about global stability. If conflict will again be a feature of life in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia then potentially nuclear operators who already have public acceptance and cost competitiveness against other forms of energy generation as major concerns will have another reason to be wary of reactors. If an incident actually occurs at a Ukrainian nuclear facility, those public and elite concerns will be far more salient.