Avoiding CO2 – THE benefit of nuclear power

Many lessons can be learned from the events at the Fukushima Daiichi (FD) nuclear power facility in Japan. First, the resulting tsunami and not so much the eathquake (like the levees breaking in New Orleans, and not as much the hurricanes – but still significant) was the determining factor for the resulting emergency events still occurring at FD. The tsunami’s rushing waters engulfed the diesel generators (in electrical terms – the “critical loads”) responsible for maintaining emergency power backup. They failed, and cascading events leading to today’s situation resulted. Second, nuclear power is a part of our lives at least in the developed world. Many US States have reactors (104 in the country). These plants provide LOTS of power. Generally, only the largest coal facilities and the immense hydro facilities of the US Western States match the ‘nameplate’ power capacities of nuclear plants. The price of the power from these plants is low to the electrical consumer, but the cost of just having nuclear power is great for society when publicly funded components in construction, extraction, processing, transport, and waste disposal are considered. But, my objective is not to focus on those points of nuclear power. Nuclear power provides a great service to our electricity consumption desire and our environment.

The point I would like to highlight is nuclear power’s offsetting ability for CO2 emissions. From my perspective, this capacity is nuclear power’s greatest asset. Today, nuclear power is one of only a few options for displacing millions of tons of CO2 emissions. Until a higher scale of deployment of renewables and ‘efficiency & conservation’ is realized, nuclear power is that main player. For more detailed analyses follow The Breakthrough Institute, who also takes this general stance of nuclear’s role in CO2 mitigation and abatement. Nuclear comes with a cost, and a significant one at that, but it’s the largest wrench in the tool box for ebbing the flow of CO2 from smokestacks, waiting for other technologies to mature.

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