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Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Nuclear Energy
“to generate baseload electricity”.
However, the pro-nuclear UK scientists (such as J Robert Oppenheimer) admit that the US wanted a
government says that baseload power is not an issue; intermittency ‘peaceful’ excuse for continued nuclear weapons development.
increases wind-generated-electricity costs only by about 6% and
wind is already much cheaper than atomic energy.
power has its own intermittency problems. The UK and US lifetime
Atomic energy appears to
average nuclear load factors (the percentage of time plants operate
be neither as cost-effective nor
compared with 100%) is only 71%.
However, the European
as low in greenhouse gas
Renewable Energy Council and Shell Oil say renewables can cost-
competitively supply 50% of global energy by 2040–2050.
The emissions as many renewable-
US DOE goes even further, claiming that renewable technology
could provide 99% of US electricity by 2020.
How? Wind and solar
intermittencies can be solved by mixed power sources and wide
geographical distributions of energy facilities so that, somewhere, Conclusions
wind is blowing or sun is shining. Offshore winds virtually always Regardless of why nations began pursuing atomic energy, nuclear
blow. Wind is often also available at night, while solar is often proponents say more taxpayer subsidies are needed “to demonstrate the
available in daytime.
economic viability of nuclear” energy.
Are they right? The preceding
analysis suggests that (because of data trimming, fallacies of composition
A second objection is that if nuclear power is expensive, why have many and inconsistency in nuclear assessments) atomic energy appears to be
nations embraced it? History suggests that the US began nuclear- neither as cost-effective nor as low in GHGEs as many renewable-energy
generated electricity for the same reason as China, France, India, Iraq, technologies. A remaining question is whether other considerations
Israel, Pakistan, South Africa, the Soviet Union, the UK and other outweigh the economic and emissions data presented here.
nations: “to open a nuclear weapons option”.
Physicists say that the
US had a “not-too-hidden agenda” of using commercial nuclear For more information please see Kristin Shrader-Frechette‘s website
technology to develop nuclear weapons.
US government officials (such (www.nd.edu/~kshrader). Several photos are available at
as the Chair of the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy) and nuclear www.nd.edu/~shrader/personal/
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