Is it really about nuclear OR renewables ?

I recently wrote a lengthy comment to an article on CleanTechies. Since it took me some time to write, I think I might share it with you : I never understood people stating it’s either nuclear or renewables as to me we need both.

Now I don’t understand the “false choice” of nuclear or fossil fuels. If we have a look at the electricity mix of various countries, it seems it is a real choice for the time being.

Further to my reading of Sustainable energy without hot air – reviewed here – we learn that not all electricity mixes are created equal.

Indeed, the more a country is relying on nuclear, the lesser are its emissions per kWh. Here are some figures :

  • France, with a whooping 80 percent of its electricity from nuclear emits 83 grams of CO2 equivalent per kWh,
  • Germany, which regards itself as a green nation emits 600 grams per kWh (very little nuclear ) and
  • Denmark, the wind energy champion – but with no nuclear at all –  emits a staggering 881 grams of CO2 equivalent per kWh, ten times more than France…

The average European figure is of 353 grams, the US figure is 613 grams and Japan emits between the two : 483 grams.

As I noted in the conclusion of my article :

“Countries with more than 50 percent of their electricity coming from thermal solutions have carbon dioxide emissions superior to 400 grams per kWh.

Meanwhile, countries with less than ten percent of electricity coming from these solutions have carbon dioxide emissions lower than 100 grams per kWh.

Today’s enemy in the face of climate change is not nuclear, it’s coal. Indeed, it is emitting one kilogram per kWh, where nuclear emits around 50 grams. (depending of the life cycle analyses…)

So to me it’s not a question of nuclear or renewables, we need both ! ( Furthermore, they are perfectly complementary… )

2 thoughts on “Is it really about nuclear OR renewables ?”

  1. two shades of green at work–numbers reveal different scales of impact upon the environment.
    indeed emissions are critical–that is why coal is not a choice energy producer. wind-solar-geothermal and the ever reliable insulation are the prime objects of focus in the renewable market.

    as for nuclear, if fusion was an option–there may be less contention..the problem with radioactive material disposal is the only problem–and what a serious one…can any numbers reassure me as to the health effects and environmental damage caused by past leaks and operational dysfunctions?

    i don’t mean body count which is obvious–i want to see actual long term results of more or less known incidents. when i find out, i will be better prepared to write about the possibilities facing us as consumers of energy.

  2. Nadine, I agree with you that waste is a serious problem. But the solution might soon come with future reactors. Please see my 10 reasons to support nuclear as I wrote about that very topic 🙂

    Another problem I see is the lack of seriousness by some nuclear operators when one should be the most careful with such stuff.

    By the way, I answered one of your previous questions with today’s post 🙂

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