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Philipp Böing

Founder: Darwin Toolbox, SynBioSoc / UCL iGEM organizer, University College London

TEDCRED 200+

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So what is the CO2 footprint of nuclear energy really?

It is often said that nuclear energy basically has no CO2 emissions, and I'd like to believe that. However, I also heard that this doesn't factor in the mining and refining of uranium before it goes do the power plant. Apparently this process uses a lot of energy and fossil fuels, which should be considered when talking about the CO2 costs of nuclear power.
Obviously this doesn't apply to nuclear power generated from decommissioned weapons, or new reactors that hopefully one day will run on our current nuclear waste.
I'm sure there must be TEDsters here who know the area and can answer this question: What is the real CO2 footprint of nuclear energy?

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    Feb 16 2011: It's a good question and a hard one to answer. As always with this sort of things, the result depends on who calculates the emission and what effects are taken into account. The largest contributing factor is the grade of the uranium ore mined. This is because enriching uranium takes huge amounts of energy even with the most efficient methods.

    The World Nuclear Association puts CO2 emissions from nuclear power between 9 and 21 g/kWh. (http://www.world-nuclear.org/education/comparativeco2.html) You should remember though, that WNA is an association of nuclear power companies so they would probably prefer a low figure.
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    Feb 17 2011: The entire concept of a "carbon footprint" as being something bad that we should work to eliminate is so absurd as to be insulting to the intelligence of any rational person.

    CO2 is plant food. We exhale CO2 with each breath. CO2 is NOT a pollutant, and the entire global warming panic is a hoax.

    The most ironic part of the whole stupid scam is that WARMING IS GOOD! And you're going to realize that more and more in the coming years as we enter another cooling period. How was your winter so far in the UK?

    Look at the following article in Time Magazine, Another Ice Age?

    http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,944914,00.html

    Look closely at what it says about our vehicle emissions on page 2 in the 2nd paragraph:

    "Man, too, may be somewhat responsible for the cooling trend. The University of Wisconsin's Reid A. Bryson and other climatologists suggest that dust and other particles released into the atmosphere as a result of farming and fuel burning may be blocking more and more sunlight from reaching and heating the surface of the earth."

    That's right, they're actually claiming that our emissions were blocking the warmth of the sun from reaching earth thereby causing the planet to grow too cold. Wait... I thought the climate alarmists say that our emissions are causing the earth to get too warm.....

    Silly me (I get confused too easily these days with all the bull$hit that's flying around) The article mentioned above from Time magazine was from the June 24th, 1974 issue. Isn't that interesting. 35 years ago the alarmists were in a panic over the coming ice age. Then, for the last 35 years, they've been freaking out about global warming... But wait, the warming stopped 10 years ago, and now they're starting to panic over the coming ice age again.

    I suggest you check out the following article, "159 Years of Climate Alarmism at The New York Times"

    http://www.newsrealblog.com/2010/01/24/159-years

    Why do we even listen to these liars & fools?

    fs
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      Feb 17 2011: all we can responsibly say is we don't know. climate is a delicate and complex thing, and we don't have much clue about it. increasing CO2 levels can possibly increase plant growth, but it can just as well reduce it. the planet might be largely unaffected, or can enter the next major extinction period, as far as our current knowledge goes.

      i highly recommend to take the issue seriously. both sides of it.
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    Feb 16 2011: this reasoning is ridiculous. today, we have a given set of energy sources. anyone looking for energy will go to the market, and choose rationally. no surprise, as long as there is gasoline, trucks will operate with gasoline, being so much practical.

    but if we decide to substitute nuclear for fossil, cars won't anymore use gasoline, or they will use artificial gasoline created from CO2, so carbon neutral.