Environmental Impact of Nuclear Power
Nuclear energy creates Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions that are as low as hydro and wind power (see graph below of an energy source comparison). Contrary to popular belief, nuclear power plants do not burn fossil fuels and, as a result, do not contribute to air pollution. Burning fossil fuels, from oil and coal for example, leads to annual carbon dioxide emissions of about 23 billion tonnes worldwide. Electricity generated from nuclear power actually avoids approximately 2 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide annually from being released into the atmosphere. To compare energy sources, oil is about 300 times more expensive to find than uranium. Oil costs $1000/MJ of energy, whereas nuclear costs $3.5/MJ of energy. Nuclear power plants in Canada currently produce about 15% of the country's electricity. In the United States, however, nuclear power accounts for approximately 20% of the country's electricity.
With regards to renewable energy sources, clean electricity from solar, wind, biomass, and geothermal certainly deserves strong support. These renewable energy sources, however, can only provide 6% of world electricity by 2030, according to the International Energy Agency. Even with mass conservation on around the world, these energy sources would not provide enough energy to meet the global demand for electricity. Nuclear power, like wind, solar and hydro energy, can generate massive amounts of electricity without carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas emissions. Nuclear power, however, is the only viable option that has the capacity to produce enough energy to meet the growing energy demands worldwide.
*Source: World Nuclear Association, Cameco Corp.