Thursday, June 15, 2006

The myth of nuclear power's greenhouse benefits

I was told a while ago that generating nuclear energy emits far more greenhouse gas than coal power – along its whole process: from digging uranium out of the ground, to purifying it, and more. It is nice to see this reality check making it in the media. Check out this excellent piece from The Age Debunking nuclear myth of greenhouse friendliness:
"…nuclear power isn't neutral when it comes to greenhouse gases. On the contrary, greenhouse gases are emitted at every step along the way to generating nuclear power."
The authors are Alan Roberts, a physicist and former member of the (advisory) nuclear safety committee of the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency, and Christopher Scanlon who's a researcher with RMIT University's Globalism Institute and a co-editor of Arena Magazine. Yes, it is possible for scientists and social commentators to make educated, informed and critical contributions to the nuclear debate!

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4 Comments:

At June 15, 2006 6:46 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are some much more detailed papers on this on the Australian Conservation Foundation Web-site, for those with an interest:

http://www.acfonline.org.au/default.asp?section_id=25

But lets have a poll -

1. Who actually thinks that Howard's "independent" nuclear inquiry will recommend that we don't go nuclear? (if you do, do you wanna buy a bridge?)

2. Who actually thinks that Howard will maintain his new-found concern for greenhouse if the Nuclear push fails?

David

 
At June 16, 2006 11:35 am, Blogger Mark Lawrence said...

Thanks David. I particularly recommend the Nuclear Power - no solution to climate change report. Readers can download the pdf on that page.

 
At June 19, 2006 1:19 pm, Anonymous Grant said...

I've read a lot about the amount of CO2 generated through the full nuclear fuel cycle, and most of that suggested that the CO2 emissions were so high to be almost as bad as coal.

However, I've had email correspondence with Rod who runs the Atomic Show podcast and he suggests that some of these reports "play with the numbers" a bit - things like using the emissions based on a coal-fired power station to enrich the uranium etc.

I haven't had the time to follow up on that - but I'll try to check out the report you mention to see if it sheds any light on this.

The thing is, we don't need nuclear to supply power to Australia. So why are we wasting energy ('scuse the pun) debating it given all the unknowns and all the risks?

I also agree with David about the "independence" of the inquiry.

 
At June 19, 2006 1:37 pm, Blogger Mark Lawrence said...

Hi Grant, It looks like the debate about nuclear power as a 'solution' to global warming is happening across the globe (I wonder how Australia's version fits in strategically and temporally): I found this interesting debate over the very issue of the CO2 impact of nuclear power in the comments of a post rejecting nuclear power as a solution at WorldChanging.com – there are pointers to an Irish report and Dutch research based on "U.S. government numbers for the energy required to mine, mill, enrich and fabricate nuclear fuel".

Some of the arguments in the debate are hard to follow, so I can appreciate why people are reluctant to engage in the debate, or want to sit back and let the 'experts' argue it amongst themselves. David, how much for that bridge? Can it take a road train carrying uranium ore?

 

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