Atomic power not so clean after all

Atomic power generates more greenhouse emissions than power from natural gas.

Just as the biofuel industry is learning from palm plantations that spew more carbon than doing nothing, we may be promoting the wrong energy policies if we let politics take over before we’ve completed adequate research….

Dr Mark Diesendorf says atomic power stations do not emit carbon dioxide (CO2) themselves, but the processes involved in creating atomic energy do.

Mining, milling, uranium enrichment, atomic fuel production, power station construction and operation, storage and reprocessing of spent fuel, long-term management of radioactive waste and closing down old power stations all require the burning of fossil fuels, he says.

“Most of the energy inputs to the full life cycle of atomic fuel come from fossil fuels and are therefore responsible for CO2 emissions,” Dr Diesendorf writes in this month’s edition of the Australasian Science magazine.

Atomic power stations using high-grade uranium ores would have to run for seven to 10 years before they created enough power to cancel out the energy required to establish them. For lower grade uranium ores, greenhouse gas emissions outweighed those produced by an equivalent gas-fired power station. [link to alternative energy blog]

Not enough uranium
Britain’s think tank New Economics Foundation reports to the G8 Summit that atomic power is an uneconomical and inefficient way to deal with climate change — and

the supply of uranium needed to fuel atomic plants would be exhausted in 85 years based on current availability and the existing rate of use.