How Carbon-Free... How GREEN... in Nuclear EnergySomervell County Salon-Glen Rose, Rainbow, Nemo, Glass....Texas


 

How Carbon-Free... How GREEN... in Nuclear Energy
 


25 March 2007 at 2:03:41 AM
salon

Have heard a number of arguments pro and con about nuclear power plant energy and have discussed quite a few of these here before. Here's yet another take, based on a new reason being dished out by pro-nuclear energy companies that are touting that nuclear energy will put less carbons in the air than, say coal. But is this a good, all encompassing argument about the environment?

"Saying nuclear is carbon-free is not true," says Uwe Fritsche, a researcher at the Öko Institut in Darmstadt, Germany, who has conducted a life-cycle analysis of the plants. "It's less carbon-intensive than fossil fuel. But if you are honest, scientifically speaking, the truth is: There is no carbon-free energy. There's no free lunch."

Nuclear power has more than just a little greenhouse gas attached to it, when mining uranium ore, refining and enriching fuel, building the plant, and operating it are included. A big 1,250 megawatt plant produces the equivalent of 250,000 tons of carbon dioxide a year during its life, Dr. Fritsche says.

That's still much less than coal-fired power plants and natural-gas turbines. It even does better than solar power and small-scale hydro projects. However, the gap with solar is closing and emissions from manufacturing photovoltaic panels are now on par with nuclear, a new study funded by the US Energy Department finds.

Officials in the nuclear power industry say references to carbon-free energy in their promotions refer only to the power-plant operation - and are not intended to describe carbon emissions during the entire nuclear life cycle.

Really. So the facts being touted aren't complete facts. And nuclear energy isn't even cost-effective.

According to one study that has studied the question, nuclear power may not fare as well when its life-cycle cost of reducing CO2 emissions is compared with other energy alternatives. An Öko Institut study last year found that countries would get more bang for their buck by moving to other forms of energy - such as biomass and even some natural-gas power plants - rather than nuclear power.

Wind surprisingly has about the same carbon footprint as nuclear when manufacturing and load factors are included. But wind power also doesn't produce long-lived nuclear waste - storage of which includes an energy cost that's unknown and is not factored into the Öko or most other analyses - yet.

Just improving a nation's energy efficiency would produce far less CO2 than a new nuclear plant (5 grams vs. 32 grams per kilowatt-hour), the study found. And it would do so at lower cost (4.8 cents vs. 5.2 cents per kilowatt-hour).


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