Wednesday, March 07, 2007

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.

2 comments:

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: http://fti.neep.wisc.edu/presentations/pmeier_energy.pdf