Nuclear energy & greenhouse

Mark Diesendorf.

Since 2000 the nuclear industry has mounted a massive international media and lobbying campaign to promote nuclear energy as a solution to the enhanced greenhouse effect.

Nuclear energy, it is claimed, emits no carbon dioxide (CO2) and can be rapidly deployed to substitute for coal-fired power stations.

If these claims were true, then nuclear energy may deserve serious consideration. But, without checking the claims with independent scholars, a number of journalists, politicians and even academics have taken up the nuclear cause.

This article presents evidence that these recently recruited supporters of nuclear energy have been premature in their support, because they have uncritically omitted to address two fundamental problems:

• CO2 emissions from the nuclear fuel chain; and
• inherent constraints on the speed of deployment of nuclear energy.

"Supporters of nuclear energy have been premature in their support, because they have uncritically omitted to address two fundamental problems."

Before addressing these fundamental issues, this article sets out the key steps in the life-cycle of nuclear energy, enabling us to identify the stages where CO2 is omitted and incidentally where nuclear weapons explosives are produced.

Although this article does address the hazards of nuclear energy, apart from CO2 emissions, it must be pointed out that all the previously debated hazards are still present and are very real:

• nuclear weapons proliferation, including their use by terrorists;
• nuclear waste management and decommissioning nuclear power stations;
• rare but devastating accidents;
• poor economics (nuclear energy is even more expensive than wind power in the UK and USA).

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