Does Nuclear Energy Really Equate to Nuclear War?
- January 5, 2011
- 419 views
In a previous post I looked at Mark Z. Jacobson’s decision to exclude nuclear power as an future energy source in a recent paper. In that post I reviewed Jacobson’s assertions that the global spread of nuclear generated electrical power would cause nuclear proliferation and nuclear war. In the course of my investigating of actual instances of proliferation, I found that nations which lacked civilian nuclear power facilities were more likely to undertake the development of nuclear weapons than nations which possess civilian nuclear power facilities. Thus arguably the spread of nuclear power generation facilities may lead to a decline in nuclear proliferation risks.
In this post I intend to consider other arguments which Jacobson uses to justify the exclusion of nuclear power from future energy plans. A second part of Jacobson’s argument for the exclusion of nuclear power claims that wind generated electricity leads to significantly lower CO2 emissions than would be the case with nuclear generated electricity. Jacobson claims:
nuclear energy results in 9-25 times more carbon emissions than wind energy, in part due to emissions from uranium refining and transport and reactor construction (e.g., Lenzen, 2008; Sovacool, 2008), in part due to the longer time required to site, permit, and construct a nuclear plant compared with a wind farm (resulting in greater emissions from the fossil-fuel electricity sector during this period; Jacobson, 2009), and in part due to the greater loss of soil carbon due to the greater loss in vegetation resulting from covering the ground with nuclear facilities relative to wind turbine towers, which cover little ground. Although recent construction times worldwide are shorter than the 9-year median construction times in the U.S. since 1970 (Koomey and Hultman, 2007), they still averaged 6.5 years worldwide in 2007 (Ramana, 2009), and this time must be added to the site permit time (~3 years in the U.S.) and construction permit and issue time (~3 years). The overall historic and present range of nuclear planning-to-operation times for new nuclear plants has been 11-19 years, compared with an average of 2-5 years for wind and solar installations (Jacobson, 2009). Feiveson (2009) observes that “because wind turbines can be installed much faster than could nuclear, the cumulative greenhouse gas savings per capital invested appear likely to be greater for wind” (p. 67).
A careful examination of Jacobson’s statement will reveal many problems. Jacobson makes claims about the relative emissions of CO2 from wind and nuclear power (9-25 times more carbon emissions). in support of this assertion Jacobson references papers by Lenzen and Sovacool. Both papers offer meta analyses of the life cycle CO2 emissions of CO2 by nuclear power. Both papers reach similar conclusions, which reflect an estimated life cycle CO2 emissions from nuclear power that is several times greater than that found by Dones. in several previous posts, most recently “Honor the Truth” (December 26, 2010), I set out the criticisms by Dones and others that studies of the lifecycle CO2 emissions associated with nuclear power reported by Jan Willem Storm van Leeuwen and Philip Smith contain numerous and serious flaws. Thus the “Stormsmith” CO2 emissions estimates cannot be considered reliable. Dones wrote that “Stormsmith’s”
results are definitively outliers.
In this section, the CO2-equivalent (CO2e) emissions (emissions of CO2 plus those of other greenhouse gases multiplied by their global warming potentials) of each energy technology are reviewed. We also examine CO2e emissions of each technology due to planning and construction delays relative to those from the technology with the least delays (opportunity-cost emissions), leakage from geological formations of CO2 sequestered by coal-CCS, and the emissions from the burning of cities resulting from nuclear weapons explosions potentially resulting from nuclear energy expansion.
The most severe weakness and abuse of meta-analysis often occurs when the person or persons doing the meta-analysis have an economic, social,or political agenda such as the passage or defeat of legislation. Those persons with these types of agenda have a high likelihood to abuse meta-analysis due to personal bias. For example, researchers favorable to the author’s agenda are likely to have their studies “cherry picked” while those not favorable will be ignored or labeled as “not credible”. In addition, the favored authors may themselves be biased or paid to produce results that support their overall political, social, or economic goals in ways such as selecting small favorable data sets and not incorporating larger unfavorable data sets.
If a meta-analysis is conducted by an individual or organization with a bias or predetermined desired outcome, it should be treated as highly suspect or having a high likelihood of being “junk science”. From an integrity perspective, researchers with a bias should avoid meta-analysis and use a less abuse-prone (or independent) form of research.
There is abundant evidence that both the Sovacool and the Lanzen studies were biased. Both studies rely heavily on “Stormsmith” despite Dones’s critique of “Stormsmith’s” methods and conclusions. There is added evidence that Sovacool was engaged in cherry picking, he found fault with most of the peer reviewed studies of life cycle emissions from nuclear power, and excluded them from his analysis. Thus neither Sovacool nor Lanzen offer credible evidence on the life cycle emissions of nuclear power plants, and both studies are likely to reflect the biases of their authors. Thus Jacobson lacks credible sources for his assertions about the life cycle CO2 emissions of nuclear power plants, and therefor there are no credible data to make comparisons between the lifecycle CO2 emissions of wind and nuclear.
nuclear energy results in 9-25 times more carbon emissions than wind energy,
is partially based on arguably unscientific and bias sources and partially based on an highly exaggerated account of the impact of the nuclear power cycle on ground cover vegetation and the global carbon cycle. Even the sources
The overall historic and present range of nuclear planning-to-operation times for new nuclear plants has been 11-19 years, . . .
French nuclear power reactors
|Class||Reactor||MWe net, each||Commercial operation|
|900 MWe||Blayais 1-4|| |
12/81, 2/83, 11/83, 10/83
|Bugey 2-3|| |
|Bugey 4-5|| |
|Chinon B 1-4|| |
2/84, 8/84, 3/87, 4/88
|Cruas 1-4|| |
4/84, 4/85, 9/84, 2/85
|Dampierre 1-4|| |
9/80, 2/81, 5/81, 11/81
|Fessenheim 1-2|| |
|Gravelines B 1-4|| |
11/80, 12/80, 6/81, 10/81
|Gravelines C 5-6|| |
|Saint-Laurent B 1-2|| |
|Tricastin 1-4|| |
12/80, 12/80, 5/81, 11/81
|1300 MWe||Belleville 1 & 2|| |
|Cattenom 1-4|| |
4/87, 2/88, 2/91, 1/92
|Flamanville 1-2|| |
|Golfech 1-2|| |
|Nogent s/Seine 1-2|| |
|Paluel 1-4|| |
12/85, 12/85, 2/86, 6/86
|Penly 1-2|| |
|Saint-Alban 1-2|| |
|N4 – 1450 MWe||Chooz B 1-2|| |
|Civaux 1-2|| |
|Total (58)|| |
* Nuclear proliferation* Nuclear CO2 emissions* Nuclear effects f the Global Carbon Cycle* The time scale of nuclear construction
* The evidence from the study of actual instances of nuclear proliferation suggests the spread of nuclear power appears to inhibit rather than encourage nuclear proliferation.* Jacobson uses biased and inaccurate sources in making his claims about nuclear CO2 emissions.* Jacobson goes beyond his sources and concocts highly unscientific arguments that extend well beyond any scientific evidence, in order to justify his exaggerated carbon emissions estimate.* Jacobson greatly exaggerates the impact of nuclear facilities on ground cover vegetation and the Global carbon cycle.* France was able to convert 75% of its electrical industry to nuclear powered generation in the same time scale that Jacobson claims is required to build a single nuclear plant.
nuclear energy results in 9-25 times more carbon emissions than wind energy,
is not truly supported even by cherry picking. Thus Jacobson’s exclusion from consideration of nuclear power as a post carbon energy source is not supported by judgements that can in any way be characterized as scientific and is the products of a personal bias.