Climate is better off without nukes

One can hear suggestions to take advantage of nuclear power industry for reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in the course of discussions on the idea of establishing low-carbon zones in Siberia. Up until now, the nuclear power industry manages to wheedle out of budget huge sums of money for the development of its projects; the argument of no carbon emitted by nuclear power stations is frequently used despite the colossal damages caused by accidents.

According to Alexey Yablokov, Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, both IAEA and WHO keep in secret the true scale of the Chernobyl tragedy. By the expert’s assessment, about 400 million people got irradiated. The scale of the economic damages gets clearer from the figures: Belarus spends 25% of its budget on liquidation of the consequences of the CNPS disaster, while Ukraine spends 12% and Russia spends 1.2% annually.

Experts and environmental activists claim that CNPS had shown the mistakenness and abortiveness of nuclear energy exploitation and that the nuclear power industry is based, to a big extent, on cultivating myths. At that, is it really true that NPSs are climate-friendly?

According to experts’ information, the difference between the present level of global CO2 emissions and the must level to be reached by 2050 approximately amounts to 25-40 gigatons CO2. The nuclear power generation industry can “save” up to five gigatons; however, to do this, the number of nuclear power stations all over the world has to be tripled in the very least. This means that in addition to presently existing in the world 400 NPSs, at least 1500-2000 new stations should be erected. Construction of such amount of NPSs in the nearest future is far too pricey and virtually unfeasible.

Neither type of present-day reactors is absolutely safe. The nuclear power generation industry does not solve the climate change problem: it produces it. Even in case of no-accident operation, it makes negative input in climate change. The full-fuel cycle of nuclear power generation, including extraction and processing of uranium, causes noticeable environmental damages, emits CO2 and only promotes climate changes. Researchers from Oekoinstitut claim that the amount of emitted greenhouse gases in a nuclear fuel cycle is practically equal to the amount of emissions in the cycle with a gas station.

Thermal pollutions of seas and lakes which are a part of the NPS cooling technological cycle also lead to artificial impact on the nature, and it is far from being positive.

By experts’ assessments, the gravest problem of the nuclear industry is the issue of conversion and isolation of radioactive waste. This waste should be kept for tens, hundreds, and thousands years. The storage territory should be isolated and carefully watched. Besides this, the zone for dealing with the waste shall never be good for human living and activities. Nuclear reactors have been in exploitation for 60 years; however, the nuclear industry still has not yet learnt how to deal with the waste of its production.

If we try to solve the problem of climate change by constructing NPSs, this, by the Heinrich Boell Foundation’s report entitled “Nuclear Power: Myths and Legends”, should lead to following effects:
• A huge number of potentially accidental will sites emerge all over the world
• New targets for military and territory attacks will appear
• The problem of dealing with the waste will aggravate noticeably, as will the danger of non-controlled dissemination of nuclear weapons all over the world
• Loss of huge financial means, initially intended for countering poverty in disaster regions – instead of that spent for expansion of the nuclear infrastructure.

NPS construction skims money from energy efficiency enhancement programs and utilization of renewable energy sources, experts believe. In the past, renewable energy sources had really been far too expensive but in the recent years, the know-how of renewable energy is rapidly falling in price. If all available global funds are used for expansion of the nuclear industry right away, by 2015, we should be able to enhance production of power at all world NPSs from 12.5% to 20% and to reduce climate impact correspondingly.

Ecologists wrote in their Position paper of Russian NGOs regarding the 21st Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21/CMP11) in Paris, November-December 2015, “We want to emphasize that nuclear energy and big hydro cannot be regarded as environmentally sound solutions to climate change”.

“The nuclear power generation industry cannot stop the global warming. The problem of energy safety and climate could be resolved and without it,” Olga Senova, Climate Secretariat of the Russian Social and Ecological Union, believes. “For this reason, we see the solution of the problem of climate sensitivity in the enhancement of exploitation of renewable energy sources and in dissemination of efficient energy saving technologies.”