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Why it is: Unaffordable - Dangerous - Unnecessary - Bad For The Environment




Claim: Nuclear power produces no CO2


This is a misleading claim that many politicians and nuclear proponents repeat as often as possible to distract from the truth. It omits to mention:


  • the CO2 cost of the power station itself
  • the CO2 produced because of the 10-19 year time-lag in the power station construction thus the time spent not producing cheaper, low-CO2 renewable energy
  • the CO2 costs of mining the uranium, refuelling and reprocessing the waste
  • containment of the wastes in special drums,
  • its storage for many centuries in ‘secure’ places yet to be found. (Volunteers, anyone?)


Many scientific studies show that, over the lifetime of the power station, many hundreds of thousands of tonnes of CO2 are produced from the following sources:


  • Clearing the site for construction
  • Mining and transporting limestone to make the cement
  • Transporting the cement [if not made on site]
  • Mining and dredging to obtain shingle for concrete
  • Making the concrete
  • Pouring the concrete
  • Making a bund [sea wall] to hope the sea does not enter the site
  • the commuting costs of the workforce
  • the CO2 produced by the manufacture of all the temporary buildings needed at the start of the project,
  • the many support buildings necessary to enable the power station to function.


 So the total CO2 produced by, say, Hinckley Point C, over its lifetime is massive and should be compared to that produced by the manufacture of equivalent power produced by renewables, which is far lower, and so alters the climate much less. 


 The International Atomic Energy Agency [2020] has shed some interesting light on these costs:


 An average nuclear power station requires 490,000 m3 of concrete to build it, along with 16,000 tons of steel and much other equipment. All these have to be manufactured using power and with an inevitable CO2 output. The concrete components, transport, mixing and pouring all contribute to the final CO2 load from the power station build. Each tonne [1000kg] of concrete produced results in 622kg CO2 being emitted [Brogan 2021]. So the total output of CO2 from just the concrete at Hinkley Point C is 304,780,000 metric tonnes, or 304.8 million tons. Not exactly zero! 


 The discrepancy with the figures produced by EDF for Hinkley Point C [6.24 million tons] are remarkable. A recent critique of nuclear power station construction in China [Jacobson 2019] demonstrates that by building nuclear power stations there has been a massive additional CO2 production compared with that which would have been produced if wind turbines were installed. A key factor is the delay in production in the two sources of energy. Further, during the nuclear construction period waiting for the power to be turned on up to 483TW per year of wind power could have been installed, leading to a saving of up to 4.7% of China’s CO2 output. Instead, China built nuclear and increased its CO2 output by 1.3%. {Jacobson 2020] 


The graph belowshows the cumulative CO2 emissions over the 100 years minimum that a nuclear power station will have to be tended [ie including waste, disposal and storage. 


 Clearly a nuclear power station is not ‘low CO2 ‘.

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