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Why nuclear power is a hindrance, not a help, to climate change action

nuclear emits twice as much carbon as solar PV and six times as much as onshore wind.

Beyond Nuclear, 2 Dec 18 Nuclear power has no constructive role to play in climate change solutions. In fact, it is a hindrance.

Nuclear power does have a carbon footprint When nuclear power is said to have “zero emissions,” this refers only to the electricity generation phase and only to greenhouse gas emissions. There are emissions at this stage, especially heat and radioactivity. Certain emissions during reactor operations, such as carbon-14 in CO2 form and methane, are greenhouse gases.

However, there are plenty of carbon emissions involved in making a nuclear power plant a reality. Therefore, when discussing the carbon footprint of nuclear energy compared to other energy forms, the entire uranium fuel chain needs to be taken into account. In doing so, nuclear energy compares poorly to renewable energy and energy efficiency. Lifecycle emissions along the nuclear fuel chain occur through uranium mining and milling, transportation, plant construction, operation, reactor site decommissioning, and nuclear waste management.1

Life-cycle carbon emissions of a nuclear power plant When taking into account planning, permitting, construction, operation, refurbishing and decommissioning, a nuclear power plant emits at least 6-24 times more carbon-dioxide equivalent emissions than wind per unit energy produced over the same 100-year period.2

 Life-cycle carbon emissions from the entire nuclear fuel chain How do we calculate this? Evaluating the total carbon output of the nuclear industry involves calculating emissions from every carbon-emitting phase of the uranium fuel chain, then dividing them by the electricity produced over the entire lifetime of the plant.3 Some of the most reliable analysis on this has been done by Dr. Benjamin Sovacool whose data we use here (see footnote 1).

Let’s take a look at the mean carbon emissions of each phase:

The entire uranium fuel chain. This includes every phase from uranium mining to decommissioning and waste management. 66 gCO2e/kWh. (StormSmith has 80-130 gram CO2/kWh.)4

» Uranium mining, milling, processing, refining and fuel fabrication. Calculations can vary depending on factors such as grade of uranium ore, energy source used to mine etc. 25.09g/kWh

» Construction of a nuclear power plant. This includes fabrication, transportation and use of materials. 8.20 g/kWh » Reactor operation and maintenance. 11.58g/kWh

» Radioactive Waste Management and storage. 9.20 g/KWh » Decommissioning. 12.01 g/KWh

Carbon emissions broken down by percentage Percentage of total carbon emissions released by each stage of the uranium fuel chain.

Uranium mining, milling, and enrichment: 38%

Construction: 13%

 Operation (inc. backup diesel generators): 17%

Fuel processing and waste management: 14% Decommissioning: 18%

Life-cycle carbon emissions of the nuclear fuel chain compared to other resources

Scrubbed coal-fired plants: 960 gCO2e/kWh

 Natural gas-fired plants: 443 gCO2e/kWh

Nuclear power plants: 66 gCO2e/kWh

Solar photovoltaic: 32 gCO2e/kWh

 Onshore wind farms: 10 gCO2e/kWh

So nuclear emits twice as much carbon as solar PV and six times as much as onshore wind.

Here’s one way Sovacool sums it up:

“Every dollar you spend on nuclear, you could have saved five or six times as much carbon with efficiency, or wind farms.”

“Every dollar you spend on nuclear, you could have saved five or six times as much carbon with efficiency, or wind farms.”



December 3, 2018 - Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change, Reference

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