Great Sustainability Debates - Nuclear Energy
part of our commitment to 'Communicating
existing and emerging concepts to a contemporary audience,
raising awareness and understanding about sustainability
issues', The Natural Edge Project secretariat
seeks to provide information on key public debates
and provide the key arguments from each side with
further reading resources to help you make up your
own mind. The
first debate in this new TNEP series is the very topical
'Nuclear Energy Debate'.
and Cons of the Nuclear Energy Debate
the last two years there has been renewed debate about
nuclear energy. To help you make up your mind on this
complex issue firstly we present below the key points
of both the Pro-Nuclear Case
and the Anti-Nuclear Case
followed by further
information from TNEP that synthesise TNEP secretariat's
findings to date on this important debate along with
a shortlist of additional
reading. These opinion pieces by TNEP secretariat
are the result of detailed consideration of both sides
of the argument.
arguing for expanding the global nuclear energy industry
argue that it is needed in order to address three
things: 1) the risks of climate change, 2) increasing
base load energy demand, and 3) the need for an energy
source to produce transport fuels once the world reaches
peak oil production. More specifically, those proposing
an expansion of the nuclear industry argue that:
are about to witness a nuclear
renaissance of both nuclear fission
addressing climate change requires large (60% or
more) reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, nuclear
energy is going to be a key part of the
solution to preventing climate change.
expansion of nuclear power is vital to meet growing
energy demand. International Energy Agency forecasts
that, 'if policies remain unchanged, world energy
demand is projected to increase by over 50% between
now and 2030'.
options to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, such
as renewable energy, do not provide reliable
base load power. The position is that
only nuclear and the burning of fossil fuels provides
reliable base load power and hence, unless geo-sequestration
rapidly becomes technically and economically possible,
we have no choice but to build nuclear power plants
in the future to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.
world's oil production will peak soon and to address
power plants are a potential way to
provide energy to create transport fuels such as
biofuels, methanol and hydrogen fuels. Also nuclear
power can help supply electricity to battery powered
cars in the future.
energy costs less than renewables.
technology of nuclear power has moved
on significantly in the last couple of decades and
a reactor like Chernobyl would never be built today.
programs like those of Sweden and France
have been very safe and delivered a lower carbon
footprint than countries like Australia which have
burnt coal for most of our electricity.
power is a green solution.
arguing against expanding nuclear power point argue
that nuclear power is too expensive, too risky, too
slow to build enough capacity, and too dangerous in
this age of terrorism. More specifically they argue
evidence to support the notion that
there is a nuclear renaissance underway. Rather
over the coming decades most forecast a
decline of nuclear energy as a percentage
of global energy supply. They point out that as
of 2003 distributed renewable energy generation
energy globally than the world's supply
from nuclear energy.
power is never going to be the answer
to climate change. Only 32%
of the US 's, and 35%
of Australia 's greenhouse emissions
come from electricity generation, whereas in countries
like Brazil and India over 50% of their greenhouse
emissions come from Non-CO 2 sources. A nuclear
power station cannot reduce Non-CO 2 emissions.
Hence those who argue against nuclear energy point
out that it is impossible for nuclear power to be
the one big techno fix for climate change as well
as the fact that building nuclear plants takes many
now argue that humanity has to significantly reduce
greenhouse gas emissions quickly to ensure that
dangerous climate change is avoided. Nuclear power
plants take a significant amount of time to build.
Energy efficiency and other forms of renewable energy
- geo-thermal, wind, solar, tidal, cogeneration,
micro-hydro, biomass, wavepower - can be implemented
today. Forty three companies
and over fifteen cities
have already achieved significant greenhouse
gas reductions without using nuclear energy.
have, are, and will continue to change, and have
the potential to dramatically reduce energy demand
both for peak and base load energy. Regulations
have been created that provide new incentives,
and reward energy utilities for selling less energy,
which have been shown to dramatically reduce demand
for more energy. Thus there is still significant
potential to reduce energy demand cost effectively
by implementing energy
efficiency through all
sectors throughout the global economy.
energy sources can indeed provide base
load electricity either directly or
by also utilising energy storage. Energy from renewable
sources now accounts for a quarter of the installed
capacity of California , a third of Sweden 's energy,
half of Norway 's and three-quarters of Iceland
's. Six fully costed modelling studies already show
that deep cuts to greenhouse emissions can be achieved
without needing nuclear power.
can reduce oil dependency profitably without needing
any nuclear power, as demonstrated by the RMI Winning
the Oil End Game Report, co-funded by
expensive than Nuclear Power. On the
17th of June 2003 the Economist
magazine , wrote that Nuclear energy
does not merit any more investment because it is
too expense compared to alternatives including wind
and solar energy sources. RMI's Small
is Profitable publication demonstrates
that once all the 207 benefits of distributed energy
generation are taken into account, distributed renewable
energy is more profitable than nuclear power. Historically,
nuclear power plants have been not only expensive,
they're also financially extremely risky because
of their long lead times, cost overruns, and open-ended
liabilities. If the same money were invested in
efficiency or renewables it would have a greater
impact on the emissions of the greenhouse gases.
it is true that the technology has moved on, and
if the best technologies were applied to any new
reactor it would have less risks than Chernobyl
, there are new risks, including indirect risk from
waste has half lives that last 10,000s of years.
No civilization has ever lasted that long. Is it
ethical to be creating a form of waste that will
require careful storage for a timeframe longer than
any civilization has lasted? Also managing the waste
is expensive. There are expensive ways to dispose
of long-lived radioactive waste. Sweden , for instance,
has spent $14 Billion and rising to manage its radioactive
waste and is now decommissioning its reactors.
power is not green due to all the points made above
and also due to the following additional facts;
namely that nuclear power plants use a great deal
of water, uranium is a non-renewable resource and
there is significant energy and resources needed
to build nuclear plants.
information from TNEP
4 and 5 of TNEP's publication The
Natural Advantage of Nations shows how deep
cuts to greenhouse emissions can be achieved without
needing nuclear energy. Specifically this is covered
17: Profitable Greenhouse Solutions led
by TNEP's Michael Smith with Adjunct Professor Alan
18: Greening the Built Environment led
by TNEP's Cheryl Paten with Adjunct Professor Alan
Pears and Dr Janis Birkeland
19: Sustainable Urban Transport by Professor
Jeff Kenworthy, Robert Murray-Leach and Dr Craig Townsend.
21: Integrated Approaches to Sustainable Consumption
and Cleaner Production by Professor Chris
chapters bring together the latest case studies, technologies
available and economic modelling showing that it is
possible to achieve deep cuts to greenhouse gas emissions
without using nuclear energy.
an Executive Summary on The Nuclear Energy Debate
Patron Professor Ian Lowe 's National Press Club Address
'Is Nuclear Energy Part of Australia's Global Warming
May the 19th, 2006 ABC Triple J's Hack compare Steve
Cannane interviewed Michael Smith, Content Co-ordinator
for The Natural Edge Project on the nuclear debate.
to the Show | View
A. and Lovins, H. (1982) Brittle Power: Energy
Strategy for National Security,
Brick House Publishing, MA (re-released
in 2001) ISBN
Online in PDF)
A. (1977) Soft Energy Paths: Towards a Durable
Ballinger Publishing Company, NY. ISBN
M., Hargroves, K., Palousis, P., and Paten, C. (2006)
Pros and Cons of the Nuclear Energy Debate.
Retrieved 13 July 2006 from: http://www.naturaledgeproject.net/TheGreatSustainabilityDebates-NuclearPower.aspx.