FAQ

What is nuclear energy’s CO2 footprint?

Answer

The International Energy Agency indicates that the highest releases of CO2 worldwide come from the electricity production. Nuclear production is of great interest in this respect: replacing a coal fired plant by a nuclear one of equal power 1000MW saves 6.5 millions tons of CO2 per year, replacing an oil or gas plant saves 3.5millions of tons of CO2. Nuclear power plants emit virtually no greenhouse gases. The complete nuclear power chain, from uranium mining to waste disposal, including reactor and facilities construction, emits only 2-6grams of CO2per kilowatt-hour. It shows why nuclear renaissance is vital in the future for meeting the objective of decreasing CO2 emissions around 15billions per year in the world. Besides these global CO2 reduction considerations, it is of interest to compare the CO2footprint country by country.

Background

Among the gases which compose the “green House Effect” CO2 is the highest contributor to global warming. The International Energy Agency indicates that the highest releases of CO2 worldwide come from the electricity production. Nuclear production is of great interest in this respect: replacing a coal fired plant by a nuclear one of equal power 1000MW saves 6.5 millions tons of CO2 per year, replacing an oil or gas plant saves 3.5millions of tons of CO2. If in the rest of the century, nuclear plants are doubled in numbers from the present installed capacity, it could save 4 to 6 billions of tons per year! It shows why nuclear renaissance is vital in the future for meeting the objective of decreased CO2 emissions around 15 billions per year in the world.
Besides this global CO2 reduction considerations, it is of interest to compare the CO2 footprint country by country:  an inhabitant of France and Sweden are less CO2 emitting (6.2t/yr) than Denmark (10.2t/yr) or Netherlands (11t/yr) for example. The mean value in OECD countries is 11t/inhabitant/yr. In North America, the value is 20t/inhabitant/yr. When looking in details at the differences of statistics in all these countries, one can see the major influence of nuclear energy for decreasing CO2 emissions. In the future another factor might help for decreasing it in the energy production by coal, which is carbon sequestration, but feasibility at industrial scale is still to come.
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