The case for expanding nuclear energy is based on myths about its status, greenhouse gas emissions, proliferation, accidents, wastes and economics. Let’s take each in turn. Nuclear is not, and has never been, a major energy force.
The greenhouse gas emissions over the life cycle of a nuclear plant using high grade uranium are 60 grams of CO2 per kilowatt of electricity (g per kWh). As high grade uranium runs out reactors will have to move to lower grade uranium and emissions will rise to 131 g per kWh. This is compared with 10–20 g per kWh for wind and 500–600 g per kWh for gas.
Nuclear energy contributes to the number of countries with nuclear weapons, or the capacity to build them, and so increases the probability of nuclear war.
The damage from major nuclear accidents must look at the long term damage. For example, four years after Fukushima, the plant is still leaking radiation, while a reported 120,000 people remain displaced and Japanese taxpayers face a bill that could run to hundreds of billions of dollars.
High-level nuclear wastes will have to be safeguarded for 100,000 years or more, far exceeding the lifetime of any human institution.
(The Conversation, 19 May 2015)
“There are 437 nuclear power reactors in 31 countries around the world. The number of repositories for high-level radioactive waste? Zero. The typical lifespan of a nuclear power plant is 60 years. The waste from nuclear power is dangerous for up to one million years. Clearly, the waste problem is not going to go away any time soon.”
(New Scientist, 18 Feb 2013)