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Is nuclear power the answer to climate change?

The nuclear power industry and its governmental allies are spending huge amounts of money to promote atomic power as an “emissions-free” energy source. Their goal is to encourage the construction of new nuclear reactors worldwide and prevent the shutdown of dangerous old reactors that cannot compete economically with clean energy sources like wind and solar power.

Nuclear power is very ineffective at addressing climate change. When the entire fuel chain is examined nuclear power is a net producer of greenhouse gases. Yes, it emits less CO2 than electricity from coal, but adding enough nuclear power to make a meaningful reduction in greenhouse gas emissions would cost trillions of dollars, create tens of thousands of tons of lethal high-level radioactive waste, contribute to further proliferation of nuclear weapons materials, result in a Chernobyl or Fukushima-scale accident once every decade or so, and, perhaps most significantly, squander the resources necessary to implement meaningful climate change policies.

Dirty, dangerous and unnecessary

In November 2000 the world recognized nuclear power as a dirty, dangerous and unnecessary technology by refusing to give it greenhouse gas credits during the UN Climate Change talks in the Hague, the Netherlands. The world dealt nuclear power a further blow when a UN Sustainable Development Conference refused to label nuclear a sustainable technology in April 2001. This issue was a high priority in 2000/2001 for both NIRS and WISE.

A WISE/NIRS report, published in 2005, shows that even if 70 % of the world's electricity were to be supplied by nuclear power by 2050 (involving the completion of 110 nuclear power stations every year and representing three times the present maximum capacity of the nuclear industry worldwide) the total world energy consumption of fossil fuels would by 7% higher than today (due to increase in energy demand) and global warming would still increase. Known global uranium resources could supply no more than the equivalent of 3.5 years of present day total world energy consumption and expected, not proven, resources could extend this supply by only another 2,5 years. A 70 % contribution from nuclear power would mean that all uranium supplies would come to an end by 2011.

See the June 25, 2015 issue of Nuclear Monitor for a detailed analysis of the nuclear/cimate debates.