ecostory 17/2006
Nuclear power to reduce greenhouse gas emissions? - f | d
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Can nuclear power stations really make a
contribution against climate change?

Proponents of nueclaur power argue: "Nuclear power ist a must in order to secure power generation and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions."

This allegation is only correct with some important caveats, as can be seen from the following calculation and table.

If the issue is to secure electric power generation one should note that Uranium is a finite resource. At present consumption Uranium stocks will last for approx. 60 years. Nuclear fusion is a technology that may never mature, because of unsurmountable technical problems such as heat resistance of materials.

Its contribution to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions can only be very small. The share of nuclear power for electricity generation is only 3 %. The share of all greenhouse gas emitting energy consumption is almost 90 %. For nuclear power to reduce fossil fuel energy use from 90 % to 89 %, the share of nuclear power generation would have to be increased from 3 % to 4 %, i.e. by one third or 33 %..

This would mean to increase the number of nuclear power stations from presently approx. 450 to 600. We hereby assume that nuclear power is really CO2-neutral.

But how much CO2 and further environmental depletion would the construction of those power stations entail? From where should we take the enormous amounts of raw materials and energy for building those nuclear power stations? Where should they be erected? Do we have sufficient cooling water? From which year onward would these power stations then make their contribution?

There verily exist faster and much more promising methods to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Final energy consumption
100,0 %
100,0 %
Source page
                      of which electric energy 18,7 %   22
of which nuclear 16,6 % =   3,1 % 2
and hydraulic 16,2 % =   3,0 % 2
Final consumption - oil, gas, coal not used for electricity generation (50,1 - 18,9 - 8,3%) 77,3 %   22
Remainder - Bio, Solar, other
(= deducted figure)
4 % 4,0 % 22
The fossil energy share (without nuclear) of the total energy production (= deducted figure)   89,9 % -
Source of the data: INFORMATIONS SUR L'ÉNERGIE 2005, CEA - Commissariat de l'Energie Atomique Direction de la communication Documentation 31-33, rue de la Fédération 75752 Paris cedex 15 Tél : 33-(0)1 40 56 10 17 Fax : 33-(0)1 40 56 20 01 e-mail : patrice.renault at

Exact calculation:
The nuclear and non-fossil share of the final energy is 3,1 + 3,0 + 4 = 10,1 % (of total world energy consumption).
Thus the fossil share amounts to 89,9 %.
If one would like to reduce this share from 89.9 % to 88.9 %, by way of building new atomic power stations (thereby reducing CO2 emissions by 1.1 %), we would have to inclrease nuclear power generation from 3,1 % to 4,1 %, i.e. by a factor 1,322 (4,1 divided par 3,1).

That means that we would have to add 147 new nuclear power stations (= plus 32.2 %) to the existing 450.
This, however, appears an illusionary undertaking, for a number of reasons. Do we have the energy and the raw materials such as steel and cement and all to build those new nuclear power stations? Where should they be built? Is there sufficient cooling water? When would those power stations then start their contribution?

The next paragraphs were translated into English by the end of 2009. That is 3.5 years after its first editing in German mid 2006. Some scientists now say that we have had the maximum total energy production from fossil and other fuels in 2008 and that we are now at the downward curve. Your comment? (click!)

The continuously increasing worldwide consumption of raw materials and fossil fuels, the continuously declining resource stocks, as well as the soon to be expected maximum and then the reduction of oil and gas extraction point at an energy and resource crisis within the next 10 to 20 years. At the onset of this crisis all construction of nuclear power stations will come to a stand-still and the complete investment will be wasted.

The end of fossil energies also means the end of our society of high numbers and high speeds. (Also see Peak Oil Because there is no equivant replacement for oil, natural gas and coal. The alternative energies will fail, for various reasons. Nuclear fissionhas a maximum of possibly 60 years of uranium stocks. Nuclear fusion is technically impossible. Hydrogen is improbable. Wind and solar have limited potential. Bioenegergy from agriculture is a dead end road because of competition with food production.

However, not the threatening energy scarcity but the temporary energy surplus is the problem of our age. Because only the enormous fossil energy quantities allowed us to raise the world population and the per capita resource consumption to the present levels. Only this it became possible to plunder and pollute the world to such an extent that environment protection and ans sustainability beacame the overarching themes of our time.

We already exceeded the carrying capacity of our planet manyfold. In stead of Business As Usual we have to make a radical U-turn and reduce our resource consumption. We have to contract in stead of growing, if we want that some resources are left our children.

Even if we would find some other energy source for a while, this would only continue our illusion that we could continue to work and grow as usual. And important time and resources will be wasted - resources that are urgently required to make an orderly restructuring of our economies.

The only chance to master the next years without catastrophe and resource wars consists of a radical rupture with the present growth and high speed ideoologies. We have to relocalise our siocieties, i.e. produce locally what we use locally. Slow and longevity. Frugal and sage.
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    Dans un article M. Pellaud non seulement est absolument fautif dans son analyse et conclusion que pour gérer le probl¸me des émissions CO2 le nucléaire est incontournable. Il se base aussi sur des personnes dits "ecolos" qui déservent pas ce nom.

    Alors, deux conclusions:
    1. Il est peu réfléchi de prétendre que le nucleaire peux faire un contribution à la réduction des émissions de CO2.
    2. Même si l'électricité représente 18,7 % de la consommation mondiale, elle n'est générée que pour un sixième par le nucléaire.
    Le 77,3 pourcent de l'énergie primaire est Charbon, gaz et pétrole.
    C'est là où nous devrons diriger notre attention en premier lieu.
    Je tiens à répéter que notre problème environnemental n'est pas le manque d'énergie mais le surplus. Ce surplus nous a permis de créer notre productioan/consommation des ressources de toute sorte tellement inflationnaire et avec cela l'épuisement et la pollution de notre terre.

    La fin d'énergie fossile veut dire fin de notre société de grande nombres.
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