Friday, August 04, 2006

Nuclear Power Isn't the Solution to Global Warming

Stephen Filler
July 31, 2006

A fact sheet released last month by the Nuclear Information and Resource Service, illustrates a variety of reasons why nuclear power cannot be the solution for global warming. Reasons include:

1) Major studies (MIT, Commission on Energy Policy, International Atomic Energy Agency) agree that about 1,500-2,000 new large reactors would have to be built for nuclear to make a large dent in greenhouse emissions. Operation of that many new reactors (there are 440 worldwide today) would cause uranium reserves to run out in just a few decades and lead to mining of lower grade uranium, which itself would lead to higher greenhouse emissions.

2) Construction of 1,500 new reactors would cost trillions of dollars, taking needed resources from clean and safe responses to global warming through energy efficiency and renewables such as wind and solar.

3) Construction of 1,500 new reactors means opening a new reactor once every two weeks for the next 60 years. Since it takes 6-10 years for a reactor to be built, and the world's nuclear reactor manufacturers can only build about half that amount, we are already far behind that schedule. We can't wait that long to solve the climate crises.

4) Operation of 1,500 new reactors would require the need for a new Yucca Mt. sized radioactive waste dump somewhere in the world every 3-4 years. The scientific and political obstacles to achieving such a feat are insurmountable.

5) Odds of a major nuclear accident are approximately 1 in 10,000 reactor-years. Operation of 1,500 new reactors (plus 440 existing) would result in a Chernobyl scale accident as frequently as once every five years.

6) 1,500 new plants would require dozens or more new uranium enrichment plants, creating thousands of tons of plutonium and posing untenable nuclear proliferation threats.

7) Although the nuclear industry claims that nuclear electricity is carbon free, this does not take into account the entire nuclear fuel chain. Significant greenhouse gas emissions are emitted in uranium mining, milling, processing, enrichment, fuel fabrication and waste storage. Nuclear fuel chain greenhouse gas emissions approach those of natural gas, and are far highter than from renewable energy sources.

8) Nuclear power does not work in warming climates. See my post here.

9) By 2050, the world will need about 25-30 Terrawatts of energy, or the equivalent of 25-30,00 nuclear reactors. It is not possible or affordable to build that many reactors, but it is possible to build that much capacity through energy efficiency improvements, and through sustainable energy sources such as solar, wind, biomass, and geothermal. We can choose nuclear power, or we can address global warming, but we can't do both.

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