04.04.2013_No88 / News in Brief

Nuclear Energy Has Prevented 1.8 Million Air Pollution Deaths, Says Report

Plant Operation

4 Apr (NucNet): Nuclear energy has prevented about 1.84 million air pollution-related deaths and 64 gigatonnes (Gt) of CO2-equivalent greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that would have resulted from fossil fuel burning, a report says.

The report, by researchers at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and Columbia University Earth Institute, says based on global projection data that take into account the effects of Fukushima-Daiichi, nuclear power could prevent by the middle of the century an additional 420,000 to 7.04 million deaths and 80 to 240 Gt CO2-eq emissions due to fossil fuels, depending on which fuel it replaces.

Large-scale expansion of natural gas use would not mitigate the climate problem and would cause far more deaths than expansion of nuclear power, the report says.

The report says that in the aftermath of the March 2011 accident at Fukushima-Daiichi, the future contribution of nuclear power to the global energy supply has become “somewhat uncertain”. But because nuclear power is an abundant, low-carbon source of base-load power, it could make “a large contribution to mitigation of global climate change and air pollution”.

It has become increasingly clear that climate change due to GHG emissions from burning of fossil fuels could be “catastrophic” for both human society and natural ecosystems, and that the key time frame for mitigating the climate crisis is the next decade or so, the report says.

The report says that during the past decade outdoor air pollution due largely to fossil fuel burning is estimated to cause over one million deaths annually worldwide.

Nuclear energy and other carbon-free energy sources could help to mitigate both of these major problems, the report concludes.

It says the future of global nuclear power will depend largely on choices made by major energy using countries in the next decade or so.

While most of the highly nuclear-dependent countries have affirmed their plans to continue development of nuclear power after the Fukushima-Daiichi accident, several have announced that they will either temporarily suspend plans for new plants or completely phase out existing plants.

The report says “serious questions” remain about safety, proliferation, and disposal of radioactive waste.

The report, ‘Prevented mortality and greenhouse gas emissions from historical and projected nuclear power’, is online (registration necessary):

http://pubs.acs.org/doi/pdfplus/10.1021/es3051197

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