Recently a collition of anti-nuclear organizations including WECF ( Women in Europe for a Common Future), The International Forum on Globalization, WISE (World Information Service on Energy), Friends of the Earth International, and Nuclear Information & Resource Service published a statement that asserted:
Nuclear power steals “time and money” that would be better invested in energy efficiency and renewable technologiesThis claim is not supported by any detailed analysis of the relative costs and benefits of carbon mitigation with nuclear and renewables. In fact the capital costs associated with renewables are higher per unit of electrical output, and since renewable tend to replace low carbon emission emitting combined cycle gas turbines, while nuclear displaces high carbon emission coal fired power units, nuclear appears to be 3.5 times more cost effective than onshore as a carbon mitigation tool, and even more cost effective than off shore wind and all forms of solar.
The effectiveness of nuclear power as a carbon mitigation tool can be illustrated with a map and two list. First the map showing the states where nuclear power plants are located:
Here is the EIA's list of Nuclear power plants by state:
The effectiveness of nuclear power in carbon mitigation can be demonstrated by comparing the map and the above state list with the states listed in Table A-2 found in "The Near-Term Impacts of Carbon Mitigation Policies on Manufacturing Industries", a 2002 study of carbon emission issues for industry:
Carbon emission per million kwh electricity generated by States (metric tons per million kwh)
We consider electricity carbon emissions from three fossil fuels -- coal, petroleum and gas. The physical quantities of coal, petroleum and gas used by states to generate electricity are obtained from Electric Power Monthly (EIA, 1993). The individual fuel quantities are converted to energy using conversion factors from Manufacturing Energy Consumption Survey 1991. This energy consumption is multiplied by carbon emission coefficients (from Emissions of Greenhouse Gases in the United States, EIA 1996) to obtain carbon emissions by state by aggregating carbonemissions from coal, petroleum and gas. Carbon emissions per unit of electricity generated (metric tons per million kWh) are calculated by dividing state carbon emissions with state net electricity generation. In Table A-2, we present the electricity carbon emissions for the US and individual states. The average carbon emission from electricity generation is about 180.9 metric tons per million kWh. The range is from 0 (Idaho) to 462 (N. Dakota). A state with a high coefficient means it uses a high share of fossil fuel to generate electricity. A smaller coefficient indicates a higher use of hydro or nuclear power.
Table A-2. Electricity Carbon Emissions by State
Total ElectricityCarbon Emissions (1000 metric tons)
Net Electricity Generation (Million Kwh)
Emission coeff. (Metric Tons per Million Kwh)
District of Columbia
Amory Lovins has repeatedly stated:
I do think we need to allocate capital judiciously and take opportunity costs seriously.This statement is of course true. Lovins also states,
I do not think you can make an empirically based business case that the existing nuclear power plant fleet has been economically worthwhile (counting all externalities at zero), nor that there is any business case for building more. This is of course an empirical question.I have provided just sort of case in my numerous analyses of the relative costs of renewables and nuclear power. But I believe that far more work needs to be done, and this work, rather than renewables advocacy should be the proper role of a Nationals Renewable Energy Laboratory. Lovins argues that nuclear power is not a cost effective carbon mitigation tool, without assessing the true cost of carbon mitigation with renewables, and without exploring the potentials for lowering nuclear costs. There is real potential for lowering cost by altering nuclear manufacturing techniques, changing siting criteria, and in other innovative approach to nuclear cost issues. In addition there is probable cause to believe that adopting alternative nuclear technologies could lower nuclear costs in a dramatic fashion, while increasing nuclear safety, resolving the issue of nuclear waste and not encouraging nuclear proliferation.
It is clear then that the claim that nuclear power does not mttigate carbon emissions can be shown to be false, and the claim that nuclear power. The question posed by Amory Lovins thus becomes, "is it cost effective to build more nuclear plants as a cost mitigation tool?" My arguments to date tend to demonstrate that it is, but we need more research, and more research tools. We need a carbon-mitigation cost index.