Skip to main content

How Green is Nuclear Power?

That's what the Christian Science Monitor is asking:
"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."
Well it's good to see they are not spouting the anti's claims on CO2 emissions. They appear to do some homework on the issue. NEI's Paul Genoa is there to represent:
"Yes, absolutely there's carbon," says Paul Genoa, director of policy development for the Nuclear Energy Institute, which represents the nuclear power industry in the US. "Most studies have found life-cycle emissions of nuclear to be comparable with renewable. Some show nuclear to be extremely high, but we do not find those credible."
Stewart Peterson has a different view on the whole life cycle analysis issue here. And be sure to check out the Wall Street Journal's blog on the CSM article.


Doug said…
Anti-nuke activists love to calculate every last emission for a nuclear construction project, but never seem to subject renewables to the same analysis. You think there might be some energy used to make all the aluminum in a wind or solar project? Perhaps some concrete used to build a solar thermal plant? Uh-huh.

Probably the biggest gotcha is their method of calculating the emissions for enrichment. First they use obsolete enrichment technologies as the basis for the calculation, then they assume that all the electric power required comes from the existing mix of sources, which are, of course, dominated by fossil fuels. With this sort of circular ill-logic, doubtless their 19th century counterparts could have proven that coal/steam power was impractical because of the amount of animal muscle power needed to mine the coal. Since the product of nuclear power is electricty, a much better emissions analysis would be "CO2 per net kwh" from a project, i.e. simply deduct enrichment electrical needs directly from the plant's output.

Powered by electricity
Paul Wilson said…
This article seemed to be fairly balanced, other than an over reliance on this German study. I am amazed by the natural gas numbers produced by the German group for both emissions and cost. Where do they get such cheap methane that doesn't emit CO2 when it burns?

That said, I did some quick math on the numbers offered by the German study. By my reckoning, this study results in the following costs for CO2 emission avoidance relative to coal:
nuke: $18.60/tonne
wind: $58.50/tonne
CC biogas: $17.70/tonne
Solar: $664/tonne

Again, the NG numbers seem completely out of touch with reality. See Meier analysis referenced in article at:

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.


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., 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…