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Limitations of Nuclear Power as a Sustainable Energy Source

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  • Joshua M. Pearce

    ()
    (Department of Materials Science & Engineering and Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering, Michigan Technological University, 601 M&M Building, 1400 Townsend Drive, Houghton, MI 49931-1295, USA)

Abstract

This paper provides a review and analysis of the challenges that nuclear power must overcome in order to be considered sustainable. The results make it clear that not only do innovative technical solutions need to be generated for the fundamental inherent environmental burdens of nuclear energy technology, but the nuclear industry must also address difficult issues of equity both in the present and for future generations. The results show that if the concept of just sustainability is applied to the nuclear energy sector a global large-scale sustainable nuclear energy system to replace fossil fuel combustion requires the following: (i) a radical improvement in greenhouse gas emissions intensity by improved technology and efficiency through the entire life cycle to prevent energy cannibalism during rapid growth; (ii) the elimination of nuclear insecurity to reduce the risks associated with nuclear power so that the free market can indemnify it without substantial public nuclear energy insurance subsidies; (iii) the elimination of radioactive waste at the end of life and minimization of environmental impact during mining and operations; and (iv) the nuclear industry must regain public trust or face obsolescence as a swarm of renewable energy technologies quickly improve both technical and economic performance.

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File URL: http://www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/4/6/1173/pdf
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File URL: http://www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/4/6/1173/
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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by MDPI, Open Access Journal in its journal Sustainability.

Volume (Year): 4 (2012)
Issue (Month): 6 (June)
Pages: 1173-1187

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Handle: RePEc:gam:jsusta:v:4:y:2012:i:6:p:1173-1187:d:18200

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Related research

Keywords: nuclear energy; nuclear power; life cycle analysis; green wash; sustainability; nuclear insecurity; future;

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References

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  1. Johansson, TB & Williams, RH & Ishitani, H & Edmonds, James A, 1996. "Options for reducing CO2 emissions from the energy supply sector," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 24(10-11), pages 985-1003.
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  3. Fthenakis, Vasilis M. & Kim, Hyung Chul, 2007. "Greenhouse-gas emissions from solar electric- and nuclear power: A life-cycle study," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 35(4), pages 2549-2557, April.
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  9. Trebilcock, Michael & Winter, Ralph A., 1997. "The economics of nuclear accident law," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 17(2), pages 215-243, June.
  10. Zelenika-Zovko, I. & Pearce, J.M., 2011. "Diverting indirect subsidies from the nuclear industry to the photovoltaic industry: Energy and financial returns," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 39(5), pages 2626-2632, May.
  11. Sherman Folland & Robbin Hough, 2000. "Externalities of Nuclear Power Plants: Further Evidence," Journal of Regional Science, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 40(4), pages 735-753.
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  13. Kenny, R. & Law, C. & Pearce, J.M., 2010. "Towards real energy economics: Energy policy driven by life-cycle carbon emission," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 38(4), pages 1969-1978, April.
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