Is nuclear energy generation “clean or dirty” energy? It’s a question that pops up every now and then. And every time some one I speak to is of the opinion that it is a clean form of energy generation I’m always surprised. And will always continue to be. More than likely.
That argument mostly follows the same trend – it generates little or no air or water pollution, no fossil fuels are used, the waste is safely disposed of and, and… And that’s where I usually think: Really? How? No one I know of has solved the waste disposal issue. And how long will it take to decompose? Hundreds of years you say? And the potential of leakage and contamination of ground water systems is how high? Mining and transportation of the uranium/plutonium as well as the construction of the actual nuclear power facility generates fossil fuel pollution.
“Over its lifecycle a nuclear power station produces as much carbon dioxide as a gas-fired power station”. Quoted from the website Transition Culture: Ten reasons why nuclear was a mistake – even before Fukushima.
That’s not even talking about the risks the actual nuclear plants pose. Yes, I know, not every nuclear power plant will end up like Fukushima or Chernobyl, but the risks are there. As far as I know, many of them in the US are built on coastal fault plates to take advantage of the water availability for cooling. You can see where the coastal nuclear power stations are relative to high seismic activity locations here . Yikes!
It’s not clean. It’s cleaner in certain aspects yes, but by fair not the best answer to our energy needs.
Tangents and mini rant aside (!), GE Hitachi’s Prism reactor (a fast reactor) could possibly solve a bit of the radioactive waste problem of nuclear power generation, by using it as fuel. It’s still a technology in development, but a potentially industry changing one. Maybe I’ll look at nuclear differently in a few years time if clever engineers and scientists clean it up.