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Nuclear Power is not a Solution to Climate Change

What are nuclear power plants doing to address climate threats? This article takes a look at the threat of sea-level rise facing coastal nuclear plants. By John Vidal, August 8, 2018

Climate change and why nuclear power can't fix it By Beyond Nuclear, March 2018

Climate change and nuclear power: an analysis of nuclear greenhouse gas emissions This study assesses the following questions:
  • How large would the present nuclear mitigation share be, assuming that nuclear power does not emit carbon dioxide (
  • How large could the reduction become in the future, starting from nuclear generating capacity scenarios published by the IAEA, and also   assuming that nuclear power does not emit
  • How feasible are the projections of the nuclear industry?
  • How large could the actual nuclear
CO2 emissions be, estimated on the basis of an independent life-cycle analysis?
  • Does nuclear power also emit other greenhouse gases?
The article notes that, by 2060, nearly all currently operating nuclear power stations will be closed down because they will have reached the end of their operational lifetimes. To keep the present nuclear power capacity, the current construction pace would have to be doubled, or more, depending on assumptions. In view of the massive cost overruns and construction delays of new plants that have plagued the nuclear industry for the past decade, it is not clear how the required high construction rates could be achieved. This is yet another reason that nuclear power not only shouldn't, but can't, be a solution to climate change. By Jan Willem Storm van Leeuwen, October 2017

The incredible shrinking nuclear offset to climate change Nuclear energy is becoming less relevant a solution to climate change as the time frame for mitigation becomes shorter.  By Sharon Squassoni, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Volume 73, #1, January 2017

Why nuclear energy is not an answer to global warming Financial, health, environmental, and political reasons are presented, and the author notes that energy efficiency, energy conservation, and renewable energy can replace most of the dirty energy we use. By Dr. Alex Rosen, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (Germany), December 15, 2016

Nuclear Power Is Not "Green Energy": It Is a Fount of Atomic Waste Proponents of nuclear power would have us believe that humankind is smart enough to store nuclear waste for a quarter of a million years, but at the same time is too ignorant to figure out how to store solar electricity overnight. By Arne Gundersen (former nuclear reactor operator), Truthout, November 14, 2016
Video conversation with Arne Gundersen (25 minutes), December 7, 2016

Don't Nuke the Climate This issue of Nuclear Monitor (June 25, 2015) dissects and debunks the nuclear industry's claim that nuclear power is necessary for climate change abatement. Seven topics are covered:

  • Nuclear power could at most make a modest contribution to climate change abatement.
  • Greenhouse Emissions from the Nuclear Fuel Cycle.
  • A Slow Response to an Urgent Problem.
  • Some countries are planning to replace fossil fuel-fi red power plants with nuclear power in order to increase fossil fuel exports − in such cases any potential climate change mitigation benefits of nuclear power are lost.
  • Nuclear power plants are vulnerable to threats which are being exacerbated by climate change. These include dwindling and warming water sources, sea-level rise, storm damage, drought, and jelly-fish swarms.
  • Civil nuclear programs have provided cover for numerous covert weapons programs and an expansion of nuclear power would exacerbate the problem.
  • Global renewable power capacity more than doubled from 2004 to 2014 (and non-hydro renewables grew 8-fold). Over that decade, and the one before it, nuclear power flatlined.

Nuclear Power is not the answer to climate change mitigation
Response to James Hansen, et al, by three Japanese scientists. January 31, 2014

Why Letter by James Hansen, et al Misses the Mark on Nuclear Power and Renewables By NIRS and the Civil Society Institute, December 2013
Letter of response sent to Hansen, et al, January 6, 2014

How nuclear power worsens climate change The front and back ends of nuclear power generate a large volume of CO2 and leave a trail of endlessly dangerous radioactivity along the way. Sierra Club, 2014

Busting the Pro-Nuclear Propaganda Nuclear power, no matter the reactor design, cannot address climate change in time. In order to displace a significant amount of carbon-emitting fossil fuel generation, another 1,000 to 1,500 new 1,000+ megawatt reactors would need to come on line worldwide by 2050, a completely prohibitive proposition. Beyond Nuclear, May 2013 (PDF)

Amory Lovins: Expanding Nuclear Power Makes Climate Change Worse Expanding nuclear makes climate change worse, for a very simple reason. Nuclear is incredibly expensive. The costs have just stood up on end lately. Wall Street Journal recently reported that they’re about two to four times the cost that the industry was talking about just a year ago. And the result of that is that if you buy more nuclear plants, you’re going to get about two to ten times less climate solution per dollar, and you’ll get it about twenty to forty times slower, than if you buy instead the cheaper, faster stuff that is walloping nuclear and coal and gas, all kinds of central plants, in the marketplace. And those competitors are efficient use of electricity and what’s called micropower, which is both renewables, except big hydro, and making electricity and heat together, which takes about half of the money, fuel, and carbon of making them separately, as we normally do. Interview on Democracy Now!, July 16, 2008

New Nuclear Power Plants Are Not a Solution for America's Energy Needs New nuclear power plants are unlikely to provide a significant fraction of future U.S. needs for low-carbon energy. NRDC favors more practical, economical and environmentally sustainable approaches to reducing both U.S. and global carbon emissions, focusing on the widest possible implementation of end-use energy-efficiency improvements, and on policies to accelerate commercialization of clean, flexible, renewable energy technologies. Natural Resources Defense Council, February 2007 (PDF)

Security Meltdown Debunking the nuclear theology. Nuclear power worsens the climate problem, because every dollar spent on costly nuclear power instead of cheaper options buys less coal displacement. For example, if a new nuclear plant delivered a kWh for only three times the cost of saving a kWh (the actual difference is typically much larger), then for the cost of your one nuclear kWh, you could have saved three kWh, tripling your carbon reduction. By Amory Lovins, Rocky Mountain Institute, Summer 2005

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