Mark Z. Jacobson: Evaluation of Nuclear Power as a Proposed Solution to Global Warming, Air Pollution, and Energy Security. In evaluating solutions to global warming, air pollution, and energy security, two important questions arise are (1) should new nuclear plants be built to help solve these problems, and (2) should existing, aged nuclear plants be kept open as long as possible to help solve these problems? To answer these questions, the main risks associated with nuclear power are examined. The risks associated with nuclear power can be broken down into two categories: (1) risks affecting its ability to reduce global warming and air pollution and (2) risks affecting its ability to provide energy and environmental (aside from climate and air pollution) security. Risks in the former category include delays between planning and operation, emissions contributing to global warming and outdoor air pollution, and costs. Risks in the latter category include weapons proliferation risk, reactor meltdown risk, radioactive waste risk, and mining cancer and land despoilment risks. These risks are discussed, in this section. Here are additional specific findings: New nuclear power plants cost 2.3 to 7.4 times those of onshore wind or utility solar PV per kWh, take 5 to 17 years longer between planning and operation, and produce 9 to 37 times the emissions per kWh as wind. As such, a fixed amount of money spent on a new nuclear plant means much less power generation, a much longer wait for power, and a much greater emission rate than the same money spent on WWS technologies. There is no such thing as a zero- or close-to-zero emission nuclear power plant. Even existing plants emit due to the continuous mining and refining of uranium needed for the plant. However, all plants also emit 4.4 g-CO2e/kWh from the water vapor and heat they release. This contrasts with solar panels and wind turbines, which reduce heat or water vapor fluxes to the air by about 2.2 g-CO2e/kWh for a net difference from this factor alone of 6.6 g-CO2e/kWh. On top of that, because all nuclear reactors take 10-19 years or more between planning and operation vs. 2-5 year for utility solar or wind, nuclear causes another 64-102 g-CO2/kWh over 100 years to be emitted from the background grid while consumers wait for it to come online or be refurbished, relative to wind or solar. Overall, emissions from new nuclear are 78 to 178 g-CO2/kWh, not close to 0. China’s investment in nuclear plants that take so long between planning and operation instead of wind or solar resulted in China’s CO2 emissions increasing 1.3 percent from 2016 to 2017 rather than declining by an estimated average of 3 percent. The resulting difference in air pollution emissions may have caused 69,000 additional air pollution deaths in China in 2016 alone, with additional deaths in years prior and since.
Stanford University 15th June 2019 read more »