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Quantifying Nuclear Energy's Environmental Benefit

As a followup to his MIT Technology Review article, Environmental Heresies, Stewart Brand is now engaged in a debate with environmentalist Joseph Romm on the merits of Brand's original piece.

In the course of the back and forth, Brand asks this question:
There's a statisic I've yet to see--- how much more carbon dioxide production there would be if all the considerable existing nuclear power in the world were not out there cranking out megawattage.

Here's the data Brand is looking for:
Annual emissions avoided. In 2003, U.S. nuclear power plants prevented 3.36 million tons of sulfur dioxide, 1.24 million tons of nitrogen oxide, and 679.8 million metric tons of carbon dioxide from entering the earth's atmosphere.

Longterm emissions avoided. Between 1995 and 2003, U.S. nuclear generation avoided the emission of 34.3 million tons of sulfur dioxide, 14.8 million tons of nitrogen oxides, and 6.0 billion tons of carbon dioxide.

Over one-third of total voluntary greenhouse gas emissions reductions. According to the Energy Information Administration of the U.S. Department of Energy, nuclear power plants were responsible for 41 percent of the total voluntary reductions in greenhouse gas emissions reported by U.S. companies in 2001. Nuclear plants reported avoiding 36 million metric tons of carbon that year. In 2002, nuclear power plants were responsible for 35 percent of total voluntary reductions, avoiding 35.7 million metric tons of carbon.

Global benefits of nuclear energy. Worldwide, 439 nuclear power plants in 30 nations produced 16 percent of the world's electricity. By replacing fossil fuels in electricity generation, nuclear plants in 2001 reduced carbon emissions by over 600 million metric tons.

For more on the environmental benefits of nuclear energy, click here.

Thanks to Crumb Trail for the pointer.

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