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Philipp Böing

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


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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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