Monday, January 28, 2013

Can We Mitigate Climate Change in Short-Term without Nuclear Energy?

Is nuclear power necessary for solving climate change?(Guardian, Dec. 21, 2012)

Also discussed here: Costs of low-carbon generation technologies(161 page pdf, Committee on Climate Change, May 2012)

And here: Global Energy Assessment - Toward a Sustainable Future(118 page pdf, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, 2012)

And here: Kyoto Protocol(Wikipedia)

Today we review a call to look at the best options to replace carbon fuels with a non-carbon energy source in time to have any realistic effect in terms of stabilizing what many see as run-away climate change. This topic has been discussed at the highest levels in recent years, notably at the 18 conferences of the parties (COPs) held since 1997 as part of the Kyoto Protocol under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Despite this, global energy consumption continues to increase at 2% per year along with the carbon emissions that destabilize the atmosphere which has already led to more frequent extreme climatic events. Can we afford to scale back on nuclear? Will the yet unproven Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) prove to be viable? Will solar and wind energy ever be economical? Answers are needed. nuclear energy

 Key Quotes:

 “Even assuming big gains in efficiency, the world will need about twice as much electricity in 2050 as it does today. The problem is that, as of today, most of the world's electricity comes from coal (40%) and gas (20%), with hydroelectric (16%) and nuclear (13%) by far the largest low-carbon sources”

“The main low-carbon options for the coming years and decades, in no particular order, are hydro, wind, nuclear, biofuels, solar power and coal and gas burned in plants that can capture and store the carbon emissions (CCS)”

“Wind and solar are intermittent and cannot provide 'baseload' power (a drawback that can be mitigated to some degree, at a cost, by large connecting power networks or large-scale energy storage)”

Biofuels depend on the availability of plant materials”

CCS is the only low-carbon option other than nuclear that can provide baseload power in regions where hydro or large-scale biofuel materials are not available”

“the cost of nuclear as falling somewhere above 'low cost' options such as onshore wind, mini-hydro and some biofuels, but below 'expensive' options such as offshore wind and CCS. Early stage technologies such as wave are estimated as having still higher costs”

 “Ruling out one of the major low-carbon technology options currently available is bound to add to the difficulty and the risk of what is already looking like a very tough challenge. Balancing the problems of nuclear power against its contribution to climate mitigation (and other energy policy objectives) is an inescapable dilemma”
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