For reference, I'm going with the accepted answer given here: How would technology adoption of Lithium Air battery work?. In my world, it makes sense that governments would be very interested in getting their hands on alternative energy sources, now that they're starting to... feel the heat.

Info on the world and its situation:

  • Starting in 2020, the political and social situation of major countries across the world deteriorate severely (as an example, both the U.S. and China end up with a civil war on their hands). Some countries are divided or even absorbed by others.
  • By 2025, most of the world is suffering from overpopulation. With it (and due to the worsening effects of global warming), food, fuel and water shortages become common. Riots follow.
  • By 2028, fuel, food and water levels become critical. It's no longer possible to produce them at a fast enough rate to meet the needs of the population. Wars over these resources flare up across the world, both between countries and within them. Groups of desperate individuals begin migrating with no clear destination, in search of these resources. The desperate look for alternatives. The truly desperate resort to cannibalism.
  • Luckily, later that year, a savior does come: ZenCorp, which manages to perfect thorium-based nuclear energy. They're willing to build and run their nuclear plants... so long as they get paid. Their first clients are governments who quickly agree to whatever price ZenCorp sets.
  • Throughout 2029 and beyond, ZenCorp grows at astonishing rates both geographically and financially, becoming the first Mega-Corporation. Their security forces turn into a private army, trained and paid to follow any command.

Considering that the potential clients are desperate to make the switch, how long would it take for a large city (like Rome) to adopt nuclear energy, first in the public and then the private sector? The dangers that civil unrest would pose to these projects could be reduced through ZenCorp's security forces working in tandem with local police/military.

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    $\begingroup$ Hi Cuervo77, and welcome to the site. I think you have a major issue with your premise. Nuclear energy won't solve a food shortage, and it could be argued that it won't solve a water shortage (though one certainly could build also desalinisation plants) or a fuel shortage (because of everything that's already out there that isn't built to run on electricity, for one thing). Also, it's not like the public and private sectors have their respective energy grids; all electricity is quite literally created equal. $\endgroup$
    – user
    Jan 10 '19 at 8:17
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Nuclear energy also works well as base energy, but it's horrible for smoothing out spikes in demand because it responds very slowly to changes in load. None of this is insurmountable of course, but you can't just plop "thorium nuclear energy" into a world and have everything magically work out. $\endgroup$
    – user
    Jan 10 '19 at 8:17
  • $\begingroup$ Thank you, a CVn! I agree that it wouldn't solve a food or water shortage (measures for those are developed years later). The question is more geared towards the fuel shortage. Given that a lot of stuff isn't built to run on electricity, how long would it take to create and implement stuff that is? $\endgroup$
    – Cuervo77
    Jan 10 '19 at 8:26
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    $\begingroup$ Power plants have enormous upfront costs and take a significant time to build, nuclear moreso than most. These problems would be exacerbated by a lack of reliable capital, raw materials, and trained workers during the crisis. The onset of the crisis is too late to bring your miracle power plants online - they need to already exist when the demand occurs. $\endgroup$
    – Cadence
    Jan 10 '19 at 8:46
  • $\begingroup$ "Given that a lot of stuff isn't built to run on electricity, how long would it take to create and implement stuff that is?" Small stuff like carts and lawn mowers: Months, though complete fleet replacement would take a few years. Medium sized stuff like cars and buses: Years, with complete fleet replacement taking a decade or more. Large stuff like power plants: Multiple years, with complete replacement taking multiple decades. Read up on what economists call the substitution effect $\endgroup$
    – user535733
    Jan 10 '19 at 14:24

When the choice is between fear of a potential disaster and guaranteed starvation the choice is quickly made.

Consider this: nuclear powerplants are extremely safe. Fukushima got hit by an earthquake more severe than it was build for immediately followed by a tsunami. While reactors did partially melt only one reactor was damaged enough to cause severe problems for the environment. This happened with a multi decade old reactor, and since then reactor design has improved substantially.

Simply building new reactors with all the technology we have now would mean exeedingly safe construction. If you are smart enough to build them in places with little to no environmental hazards (so not in places like tornado alley or on/near an active fault line like Fukushima) you should be good to go.

The biggest hurdle would be public opinion. We already have public opinions that have little trouble with large-scale pollution as long as it happens out of their vision. Nuclear power has a massive stigma to overcome, but with large scale promotion of the newest safety measures and how much it would help the world you should get people to switch. For example: "the extra energy production will feed this many people, you'll be able to breathe through the smog again and we'll start reverting global warming, it'll only damage the world if it ever gets out but if no idiots lie in front of the transports that put it in bunkers we'll be fine". You can also placate them with (possibly true) promises of efficiënt fusion reactors.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Actually 3 meltdowns occurred at Fukushima. Units 1, 2, and 3 all had melting of some of the fuel. What you meant perhaps is that none of these had nuclear fuel escape from the reactor. However, this is not necessarily accurate either, as there was a vessel breach where fuel escaped reactor 2. $\endgroup$ Jan 10 '19 at 16:06
  • $\begingroup$ Thank you for your answers! It's good to know that it would take a serious catastrophe (or a string of them) to cause issues with modern nuclear power plants! $\endgroup$
    – Cuervo77
    Jan 10 '19 at 16:32

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