Argument: Entire nuclear cycle emits substantial greenhouse gases

Issue Report: Nuclear energy


“Nuclear Power: No Solution to Climate Change”. Nuclear Information and Resource Center – nuclear power is not only ineffective at addressing climate change, when the entire fuel chain is examined, nuclear power is found to be a producer of greenhouse gases.

Benjamin K. Sovacool. “Valuing the greenhouse gas emissions from nuclear power: A critical survey”. Elsevier. 25 Feb. 2008 – Abstract. This article screens 103 lifecycle studies of greenhouse gas-equivalent emissions for nuclear power plants to identify a subset of the most current, original, and transparent studies. It begins by briefly detailing the separate components of the nuclear fuel cycle before explaining the methodology of the survey and exploring the variance of lifecycle estimates. It calculates that while the range of emissions for nuclear energy over the lifetime of a plant, reported from qualified studies examined, is from 1.4 g of carbon dioxide equivalent per kWh (g CO2e/kWh) to 288 g CO2e/kWh, the mean value is 66 g CO2e/kWh. The article then explains some of the factors responsible for the disparity in lifecycle estimates, in particular identifying errors in both the lowest estimates (not comprehensive) and the highest estimates (failure to consider co-products). It should be noted that nuclear power is not directly emitting greenhouse gas emissions, but rather that lifecycle emissions occur through plant construction, operation, uranium mining and milling, and plant decommissioning.

“Nuclear power no solution to global warming”. Pacific Ecologist. Winter 2008 – nuclear power is not pollution or emissions free. Every step of the nuclear fuel cycle: mining, development, production, transportation and disposal of waste, relies on fossil fuels and produces greenhouse gas emissions. A complete life-cycle analysis shows, generating electricity from nuclear power emits 20–40% of the carbon dioxide per kilowatt hour of a gas-fired system when the whole system is taken into account.