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Current Affairs

Nuclear energy and climate

Date: 02 December 2021 Tags: Space

Issue

Proponents of nuclear energy say that it can prevent economies from polluting using fossil fuels.

 

Background

To check for the validity of the arguments, facts were checked to see if nuclear power really helps save the climate.

 

Details

  • The recent figures on global carbon dioxide emissions show that they are set to soar 4.9% in 2021, compared to previous year.

  • The energy sector is the largest contributor to the greenhouse gases emission, with a share of 40% that is continuously growing.

  • Supporters of nuclear energy say that it is a climate-friendly way of generating electricity at least till we are able to develop alternative sources.

 

Nuclear power as zero-emission source

  • Nuclear emission is not zero-carbon emitter. The process of uranium extraction, transport and processing emits carbon.

  • The construction of nuclear power plants as well as demolition of decommissioned plants contributes to carbon emissions.

  • The strict guidelines for the transportation and storage of nuclear waste also contribute to emissions.

 

Proponents of nuclear energy

Austrian consultative firm ENCO is one among the most vocal supporters of nuclear energy but it has its own vested interests.

 

Carbon produced by nuclear energy

  • According to a report by IPCC, that nuclear power plants emit carbon in the range of 3.7 to 110 grams of CO2 equivalent per kilowatt-hour (kWh).

  • The newer nuclear power plants generate more CO2 during construction due to strict nature of safety regulations.

 

Comparison to other sources

  • In comparison to coal powered and natural gas plants, nuclear energy emits less carbon. But the situation is completely different in comparison to renewable energy.

  • Nuclear plants emit 13 times more CO2 when compared to onshore wind power. It is 29 times more carbon emitter while comparing with hydroelectricity.

 

Way ahead

  • Nuclear energy plants are four times as expensive as wind or solar. They also take long duration for construction.

  • If the world is planning to keep carbon emissions within control, nuclear energy plants will not be helpful.

  • Other challenges such high maintenance costs, lack of fuel availability, safety and security concerns act as impediments in promoting nuclear energy.