Don't nuke the climate

Nuclear power is not the answer to climate change

“Nuclear power is a low-carbon form of electricity generation that can make a significant con­tribution to tackling climate change”, according to the govern­ment in the 2008 White Paper on Nu­clear Power. With these and simi­lar statements the UK go­vernment and nuclear industry try to present and justi­fy nuclear power as indispens­able if we are to combat climate change.
However, repeating the claim over and over again does not make it more true. It is seriously flawed.

Firstly, it is based on unrea­listically low estimates of the car­bon emissions associated with nuclear power. The White Paper on Nuclear Power esti­mates these at 7–22 gCO2/kWh. However, a study of more than 100 life-cycle studies of nuclear power gave an ave­rage of 66 gCO2e/kWh — more than three times the govern­ment's estimate.
Secondly, nuclear power takes a long t time to develop. Even according to the government's and the nuclear industry's am­bitious plans, no nuclear power station would be connected to the grid before 2017. The In­stitute of Mechanical Engi­neers estimates that by 2025 a maxi­mum of 13GW of new nuclear capacity would be connected — not much more than the present close to 11GW of nuclear power. Of the existing stations, all but one (Sizewell B) will be decommissioned by 2025. The Sustainable Development Com­mission commented in 2006 “that even if the UK's existing nuclear capacity was doubled, it would only give an 8% cut on CO2 emissions by 2035 (and nothing before 2010). This must be set against the risks.” — In short: too little, too late.
Thirdly, investing in nuclear po­wer will take investment away from other, genuinely low-car­bon forms of electricity genera­tion, and from increasing energy efficiency: renewables such as wind, wave energy, solar, hydro­electric, biomass, or combined heat and power.

The Sustainable Development Commission wrote in 2006: “It is clear that there is more than enough renewable resource in the UK to provide a diverse, low carbon electricity supply. All the scenario results suggest that it is possible to meet our energy needs in a carbon constrained economy without nuclear power.
There is no reason to nuke the climate.

Andreas Speck