Emissions by Nuclear Energy
Dec 24, 2021
Emissions by Nuclear Energy
Q What is the context ?
A Supporters of the Nuclear Energy source say that it is a climate-friendly way to generate electricity. However, this is subjected to various considerations often not discussed.
Q Why focus on Nuclear Energy?
- The main factors for its choice were reliability and security of supply.
- The latest figures on global carbon dioxide emissions call into question the world’s efforts to tackle the climate crisis.
Soaring CO2 emissions
- CO2 emissions are set to soar 4.9% in 2021, compared with the previous year, according to a study published earlier this month by the Global Carbon Project (GCP), a group of scientists that track emissions.
- In 2020, emissions dropped 5.4% due to the COVID-19 pandemic and associated lockdowns.
- The energy sector continues to be the largest emitter of greenhouse gases, with a share of 40% and rising.
Q Is nuclear power a zero-emissions energy source?
A Nuclear energy is also responsible for greenhouse gas emissions.
- Uranium mining: Uranium extraction, transport and processing produces emissions.
- Construction of power plants: The long and complex construction process of nuclear power plants also releases CO2, as does the demolition of decommissioned sites.
- Nuclear waste and its transportation: This also has to be transported and stored under strict conditions — here, too, emissions must be taken into account.
- Water consumption: Power plants depend on nearby water sources to cool their reactors, and with many rivers drying up, those sources of water are no longer guaranteed.
Q How much CO2 does nuclear power produce?
- Results vary significantly, depending on whether we only consider the process of electricity generation, or take into account the entire life cycle of a nuclear power plant.
- A report released in 2014 by the IPCC estimated a range of 3.7 to 110 grams of CO2 equivalent per kilowatt-hour (kWh).
- It’s long been assumed that nuclear plants generate an average of 66 grams of CO2/kWh.
Q How climate-friendly is nuclear compared to other energies?
- If the entire life cycle, nuclear energy certainly comes out ahead of fossil fuels like coal or natural gas.
- But the picture is drastically different when compared with renewable energy.
- Nuclear power releases 3.5 times more CO2 per kilowatt-hour than photovoltaic solar panel systems.
- Compared with onshore wind power, that figure jumps to 13 times more CO2.
- When up against electricity from hydropower installations, nuclear generates 29 times more carbon.
Q Can we rely on nuclear energy to help stop global warming?
- Around the world, nuclear energy representatives, as well as some politicians, have called for the expansion of atomic power.
- Other countries have also supported plans to build new nuclear plants, arguing that the energy sector will be even more damaging for the climate without it.
Q How feasible is Nuclear Energy ?
- High cost of construction: Due to the high costs associated with nuclear energy, it also blocks important financial resources that could instead be used to develop renewable energy.
- Renewables are better: Those renewables would provide more energy that is both faster and cheaper than nuclear.
- High water consumption: During the world’s increasingly hot summers, several nuclear power plants have already had to be temporarily shut down due to water scarcity.
Q What can be Way Forward ?
- Taking into account the current overall energy system, nuclear energy is by no means CO2 neutral.
- The contribution of nuclear energy is viewed too optimistically.
- In reality construction, times are too long and the costs too high to have a noticeable effect on climate change. It takes too long for nuclear energy to become available.