Skip to main content

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.

Technorati tags: , , , , ,

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

How Nanomaterials Can Make Nuclear Reactors Safer and More Efficient

The following is a guest post from Matt Wald, senior communications advisor at NEI. Follow Matt on Twitter at @MattLWald.

From the batteries in our cell phones to the clothes on our backs, "nanomaterials" that are designed molecule by molecule are working their way into our economy and our lives. Now there’s some promising work on new materials for nuclear reactors.

Reactors are a tough environment. The sub atomic particles that sustain the chain reaction, neutrons, are great for splitting additional uranium atoms, but not all of them hit a uranium atom; some of them end up in various metal components of the reactor. The metal is usually a crystalline structure, meaning it is as orderly as a ladder or a sheet of graph paper, but the neutrons rearrange the atoms, leaving some infinitesimal voids in the structure and some areas of extra density. The components literally grow, getting longer and thicker. The phenomenon is well understood and designers compensate for it with a …

Missing the Point about Pennsylvania’s Nuclear Plants

A group that includes oil and gas companies in Pennsylvania released a study on Monday that argues that twenty years ago, planners underestimated the value of nuclear plants in the electricity market. According to the group, that means the state should now let the plants close.

Huh?

The question confronting the state now isn’t what the companies that owned the reactors at the time of de-regulation got or didn’t get. It’s not a question of whether they were profitable in the '80s, '90s and '00s. It’s about now. Business works by looking at the present and making projections about the future.

Is losing the nuclear plants what’s best for the state going forward?

Pennsylvania needs clean air. It needs jobs. And it needs protection against over-reliance on a single fuel source.


What the reactors need is recognition of all the value they provide. The electricity market is depressed, and if electricity is treated as a simple commodity, with no regard for its benefit to clean air o…

Why Nuclear Plant Closures Are a Crisis for Small Town USA

Nuclear plants occupy an unusual spot in the towns where they operate: integral but so much in the background that they may seem almost invisible. But when they close, it can be like the earth shifting underfoot.

Lohud.com, the Gannett newspaper that covers the Lower Hudson Valley in New York, took a look around at the experience of towns where reactors have closed, because the Indian Point reactors in Buchanan are scheduled to be shut down under an agreement with Gov. Mario Cuomo.


From sea to shining sea, it was dismal. It wasn’t just the plant employees who were hurt. The losses of hundreds of jobs, tens of millions of dollars in payrolls and millions in property taxes depressed whole towns and surrounding areas. For example:

Vernon, Vermont, home to Vermont Yankee for more than 40 years, had to cut its municipal budget in half. The town closed its police department and let the county take over; the youth sports teams lost their volunteer coaches, and Vernon Elementary School lost th…