Sure, let's debate nuclear power – just don't call it "low-emission"

● By Prof. Mark Diesendorf, University of New South Wales ● Nuclear power is back on Australia’s radar. In its recent issues paper released as a preface to September’s Energy White Paper, the Abbott government reopened the debate thus: With environmental considerations constraining the further development of hydro-electric sources, nuclear technologies continue to present an option for future reliable energy that can be readily dispatched into the market. This sentence appears in a passage dealing with the “move to low-emissions energy”, and although nuclear is not explicitly described as a low-emission option, it certainly looks as if the government is prepared to consider embracing nuclear power as part of an alleged move away from fossil fuels. Is nuclear energy really low-emission? Unfortunately, the notion that nuclear energy is a low-emission technology doesn’t really stack up when the whole nuclear fuel life cycle is considered. In reality, the only CO2-free link in the chain is the reactor’s operation. All of the other steps – mining, milling, fuel fabrication, enrichment, reactor construction, decommissioning and waste management – use fossil fuels and hence emit carbon dioxide. Several analyses by researchers who are independent of the nuclear industry have found that total CO2 emissions depend sensitively on the grade of uranium ore mined and milled. The lower the grade, the more fossil fuels are used, and so the higher the resulting emissions. In one such study, the nuclear physicist (and nuclear energy advocate) Manfred Lenzen found that CO2 emissions from the nuclear fuel cycle increase from 80 grams per kilowatt-hour (g/kWh) where uranium ore is high-grade at 0.15%, to 131 g/kWh where the ore grade declines to low-grade at 0.01% ...Zum vollständigen Artikel

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