Nuclear Power – Not “Carbon Free” Energy

by L J Furman, MBA on March 16, 2013

in Fort Calhoun, Fort Calhoun, Fukushima, Nuclear Energy



Jeff Hanson, spokesman for the Omaha Public Power District, OPPD, in discussing the Fort Calhoun reactor, closed since April, 2011 for refueling then, in June, 2011, due to flooding, said,

“[Nuclear power is] a reliable source of electricity that’s carbon-free. That becomes more valuable going forward,” OPPD spokesman Jeff Hanson said.

This assertion that nuclear power is “carbon free”  or that it produces “no greenhouse gases” is based on a simplified view of one aspect of the nuclear power – fissioning uranium – and ignores the complete picture.

Fallout Map from Fukushima Disaster

Fallout Map from Fukushima Disaster

While fissioning uranium does not release carbon dioxide, when we look at the entire fuel / waste cycle we see that getting uranium out of the ground, fashioning it into fuel rods, transporting the fuel rods to the plant and managing the waste requires energy, and much of this energy releases carbon dioxide.

Taking a similar look at the entire life cycle of renewable energy systems, solar, wind, hydro and geothermal systems also require infrastructure and energy to manufacture, transport and install. However these are not fuel and waste based technologies. They are more thermodynamically efficient: 0.0 grams of waste produced with each kilowatt-hour of electricity.

In addition, some things may be worse than carbon dioxide. Nuclear power generates massive amounts of waste heat, along with along with radioactive waste. It also presents national security challenges. Put another way, the Fukushima and Chernobyl disasters are worse than Hurricanes Sandy, Irene, Katrina, and other storms. Unlike Fukushima, Sandy did not and will not trigger an increase in cesium. Japan Times reported, March 16, 2013, here,

Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Friday it detected a record 740,000 becquerels per kilogram of radioactive cesium in a fish caught in waters near the crippled Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, equivalent to 7,400 times the state-set limit deemed safe for human consumption.

While Sandy, Irene, Katrina and other natural disasters cause problems, those problems can be managed quickly. They don’t persist for hundreds of years, as will the problems caused by Chernobyl, Fukushima, and Three Mile Island.

An analyst with Popular Logistics, Lawrence J. Furman holds a Bachelor’s in Biology, an MBA in “Managing for Sustainability” from Marlboro College, experience with information technology. He can be reached at ‘L Furman 97” @ G Mail.


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