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Friday, 17 April 2009

Life-Cycle Analysis of Nuclear Fuel Route_Cradle-to-Grave, GHG-CO2equivalent emissions_Nuclear Inspections

Nuclear Inspections
In two of my recent posts:

1.Renewable and Alternative Energy Sources Ranked_Review of solutions to global warming, air pollution, energy security_Information Overload Mastered, (09 March 08).

2.Solutions to global warming, air pollution, and energy security reviewed _Parametres used to classify and rank_Follows previous post (21Feb 09).

I introduced readers to Mark Z. Jacobson's strong pitch, in his "Review of solutions to global warming, air pollution, and energy security", in favour of "renewable energy sources" his 1st and 2nd choices, termed, Tiers 1 and 2. followed by his less favoured 3rd choices, Tier 3, which includes alternatives energies; coal-fired power with the "elusive" carbon capture and sequestration (Coal-CCS) , and the experienced and successful Nuclear route. Both coal without CCS and Nuclear are current main and acknowledged alternative power supplier respectively. By the same, both are major users of high-temperature corrosion resistant alloys and as a very early retired specialist in the later fields, I -and colleagues- shall come back, with some delight, to talk about what the metallurgists, materials scientists and engineers can hope to bring to humanity's energy-climate plight which is unlikely to miraculously disappear.

At present, it is the latter 3rd choice, tier 3, in particular Nuclear, which will be considered here thanks to Benjamin K. Sovacool, a research fellow at the National University of Singapore, who recently analyzed more than one hundred life-cycle studies of nuclear plants around the world, his results published in August in Energy Policy (ref1.).
The life-cycle-assessment (LCA) evaluates the total carbon output of the nuclear industry involves calculating those emissions and dividing them by the electricity produced over the entire lifetime of the plant.

The Good News:
From the 19 most reliable assessments, Sovacool found that estimates of total life-cycle carbon emissions ranged from 1.4 grammes of carbon dioxide equivalent per kilowatt-hour (gCO2e/kWh) of electricity produced up to 288 gCO2e/kWh.

Sovacool believes the mean of 66 gCO2e/kWh to be a reasonable approximation.
and according to his analysis,

-nuclear power, at 66 gCO2e/kWh emissions is well below
-scrubbed coal-fired plants, which emit 960 gCO2e/kWh, and
-natural gas-fired plants, at 443 gCO2e/kWh.

However, nuclear emits twice as much carbon as solar photovoltaic, at 32 gCO2e/kWh, and six times as much as onshore wind farms, at 10 gCO2e/kWh.

"A number in the 60s puts it well below natural gas, oil, coal and even clean-coal technologies. On the other hand, things like energy efficiency, and some of the cheaper renewables are a factor of six better. So for every dollar you spend on nuclear, you could have saved five or six times as much carbon with efficiency, or wind farms," Sovacool says. "Add to that the high costs and long lead times for building a nuclear plant about $3 billion for a 1,000 megawatt plant, with planning, licensing and construction times of about 10 years and nuclear power is even less appealing.

The Bad News-Work To Be Done (TBD)?

Over and above the already extensive ranking of the nuclear route there remains many serious concerns about the risks caused by uranium mining (eg radon gas levels on miners), and waste disposal both from the mining operations on miners and locally exposed populations-cradle side or to local populations on the end waste "grave side" if I may use the expression. A rapid Google Search turns-up an impressive list of concerns. however at the time of this post, again a scientific pointer is given by BK Sovacool in his paper on bird mortality or rather avian mortality (birds, bats...etc) (Ref. 2 below) which surprisingly ranks wind the least harmful to avian species followed by nuclear and worse of all coal power generation. (personal communication by Mark Z. Jacobson.)

NB. in both references there is strictly no reference to "Superman or woman! " This is perhaps a lesson in it's self!


1."Valuing the greenhouse gas emissions from nuclear power: A critical survey" [pdf].

2. Contextualizing avian mortality: A preliminary appraisal of bird and bat fatalities from wind, fossil-fuel, and nuclear electricity [abstract]


James Alexander said...

Correspondance with the author of the peer reviewed paper on Nuclear Power LCA-life cycle assessment B.J. Sovacool

Greetings, James,

For some reason your email was sent directly to my spam box. I check it every two weeks and am sorry for my delay in responding.

Your post looks well written to me, and it’s good to see you engaging with Mark Jacobson’s work. I greatly admire Mark as a researcher (and a human being). It’s also nice to be getting some positive feedback on the blogs. A few pro nuclear folks have been saturating the web with negative posts, most of them poorly argued and missing many of the points made in my article. It’s warming to see you get things right.

The paper on avian mortality that Mark mentioned is attached, if interested.

Best of luck in your pursuits,


James Alexander said...

My correspondance and acknowledgement of B. J. Sovacool's good work on LCA-life cycle assessment of Nuclear Power Plant.

Here is a link to my write-up on my pages

Life-Cycle Analysis of Nuclear Fuel Route_Cradle-to-Grave, GHG-CO2equivalent emissions_Nuclear Inspections
You comments,suggestions (criticism) and questions are most welcome either directly or via any of my blogs.
Jacobson also brought my attention to your approach to "nuclear waste-avian mortality (in a round about way?)

Best wishes and thanks for your open access, most informative and useful in what I call "Wedge-a-War" in the Socolow-Pacala sense.

James Alexander
Consultant Free-Lance

James Alexander said...

Greetings Benjamin,

Thanks for taking time time to "assess" my comments.
Indeed I do appreciate both you and Mark's work and approaches.

Do you have any objection to my publishing your comments to my write-up of your work?
(here is what it looks like, cf. same link with comments at the bottom of the page.)
Life-Cycle Analysis of Nuclear Fuel Route_Cradle-to-Grave, GHG-CO2equivalent emissions_Nuclear Inspections
If you object, I will take it off. I do not make habit, of Publishing private correspondence; in fact it's a first and all the more important on a delicate issue.

Comments are good for ranking in the Blogsphere - but proper conduct is much more important to me.

You may have noticed that I have been involved in manufacturing for the full line of Energy Materials and more. My past experience-involvement (employment) leads me to believe we will require a transition period whereby a push for improvement in practice on Nuclear Plant Life Cycle performance and huge push and pull on the use of Coal based Power Generation.

On a serious but lighter note you may be interested to read an earlier poem I wrote when to my awe, I discovered that locally we have an important coal reserve in an economically and industrially depressed area of France! "Open Cast Mining Project:

OPEN-SKY COAL MINE - Poem with Comments


on the blog where I can let my hair down as we say" and express intuition let of "steam" or whatever Home address of the blog is

James Alexander said...

Response to my email to Benjamin Sovocool.


Sure, post away. Next time I’ll take care to craft something more articulate, like your poem. You appear to be a man of many talents. I especially like:

Memories of a Mining Pole, "La Machine"
In Never's "pastures green" Land of "the waters still"
Psalm 23, Refreshing chill, 's
Nuclear & Coal alike.
Sort of reminds me of the Pope’s the Dunciad. Then again, can you really compete with the Clean Coal Carollers? See for a laugh (or a cry).



High Purity Cr sources for Superalloys

Energy for th Future:Phil.Trans.A-Vol. 365, N° 1853 / April 15, 2007, curtesy The Royal Soc. London

Engineered foams and porous materials: Phil Trans A. Vol 364, N° 1838 / 06 curtesy_The R Soc. Lond